March 12, 2012 / 11:01 AM / 5 years ago

EU targets farm, forest land in extending CO2 curbs

3 Min Read

* Farming lobby has major concerns over proposal

* Forestry, farm land covers more than 3/4 of EU territory

* Biomass would have to be monitored

By Barbara Lewis

BRUSSELS, March 12 (Reuters) - EU governments will have to record changes to forestry and farmland that alter the carbon balance under draft law published on Monday, as the European Commission presses ahead with new rules against greenhouse emissions.

The proposals go beyond agreements reached at U.N. climate change talks in Durban last year, by requiring EU nations to monitor cropland and grazing land in addition to forests.

The Durban accords said industrialised nations could include them.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the proposal, a draft of which was seen by Reuters last month, while farmers said they had major concerns.

"This is the first step to incorporate these sectors into the EU's reduction efforts," European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement.

The bloc's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) already seeks to limit the carbon emissions of utilities, heavy industry and aviation. The introduction of carbon charges for all aircraft using EU airports from the start of this year has led to furious resistance from airlines and non-EU governments.

But the EU has said it will stand firm unless the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization can come up with a global scheme.

It has also said its next target is shipping and later this year will publish proposals on how to curb maritime emissions.

Huge Chunk

The EU's forests and agricultural lands cover more than three-quarters of EU territory.

But although highly significant, carbon accounting for forestry and land-use is less established than for other sectors and progress on managing it internationally and within the EU has been slow.

So far land use, land use change and forestry, known by the acronym LULUCF, has been excluded from the EU's set of fixed targets to try to curb climate change.

One consequence is that emissions from biomass used in power generation have been counted as zero, causing some to question whether an EU target to increase the share of renewables in the energy mix is being met through emissions from biomass.

The Commission's proposal does not go as far as land-use targets, but emissions from burning biomass such as wood for power generation, for instance, would have to be monitored.

After monitoring and reporting has been in place "for a number of years" and proven to be effective, as a second step the Commission said it would propose including LULUCF in the EU's binding emissions reduction target.

Environmental groups that favour the EU's new approach agree with the Commission stance that a forestry and land-use target should not be part of the ETS, and say they differ fundamentally with other sectors in that they can remove carbon as well as add to overall emissions. (Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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