Agriculture in the European Green Deal

The Commission published its Communication on the European Green Deal in mid-December 2019. Previously flagged in Commission President von der Leyen’s Political Guidelines for the new Commission, it defines the key political objectives of the new Commission for the next five years.

The headline commitment is to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 (while conflating the EU with Europe may seem like over-reach by the Commission, it should be remembered that other European countries, most recently Switzerland, either participate in or are linked to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the UK government’s preference is that it will remain associated after Brexit).

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Role of the land sector in meeting EU’s climate targets

The EU has signed up to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. Among these are Goal 13 to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts and Goal 15 to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

The incoming Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen set out in her Political Guidelines for the new Commission her ambition that the EU should raise its commitment to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in 2030 from 40% to 50% immediately and to 55% in the first half of the next decade compared to 1990.

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The role of the LULUCF sector in the EU’s long-term climate strategy

In its Decision adopting the Paris Agreement in 2015, the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decided to convene a facilitative dialogue among Parties in 2018 to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties in relation to progress towards the Agreement’s long-term goal and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) (Para. 20). It also asked those Parties that had submitted intended NDCs prior to the adoption of that Decision, such as the EU, “to communicate or update by 2020 these contributions” (Para. 24). Furthermore, it requested Parties to communicate to the secretariat , by 2020, mid-century, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies in accordance with Article 4, paragraph 19, of the Agreement (Para.

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Accounting for the LULUCF sector in the EU’s 2030 climate targets

The land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector is assigned an important role in both global and EU climate policy because it is an important store of carbon (around four times as much carbon is stored in soils and biomass including forests as in the atmosphere itself (Lal, 2004) and it is, to date, the only sector with the large-scale potential to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

The Paris Agreement highlights the potential contribution of the LULUCF sector by setting an objective to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century in order to meet its overall goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C

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Mitigation potential in EU agriculture

In my previous post on this blog, I noted that the Commission’s impact assessment (IA) accompanying its presentation of the new Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) proposal concluded that very little additional agricultural mitigation is expected in the period 2021-2030, over and above what is projected to occur under current policies.

Two possible conclusions might be drawn from this finding. One is that the agricultural sector lobby organisations have used their political clout to ensure that the sector is required to do as little as possible to contribute to the EU’s 2030 climate targets. This reaction was advanced by some NGO activists in response to the post.

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Is agriculture off the hook in the EU’s 2030 climate policy?

In October 2014, the European Council agreed the 2030 policy framework for climate and energy policy. The framework sets out the European Union (EU)’s commitment to a binding target of at least a 40% domestic reduction in economy-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 compared to 1990, with the reductions in the Emission Trading System (ETS) and non-ETS sectors (NETS) amounting to 43% and 30% respectively by 2030 compared to 2005. The European Council also set an EU target of at least 27% for the share of renewable energy consumed in the EU in 2030, and an indicative target at the EU level of at least 27% for improving energy efficiency in 2030 compared to projections of future energy consumption based on current trends.

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Lost in Climate Change Reports

The UN’s next global climate change conference is fast approaching. Hosted by France, the conference aims to achieve a new international agreement on the climate with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C. This is not a new goal as we know – the Copenhagen Meeting in 2009 also wanted to reach the same.

Those interested might find it useful to read some recent reports on the topic to keep themselves up to date. However, by starting with the probably most well-known ones (IPCC’s climate change reports), one surely realises that their language becomes very hard to understand. In a recent article, a number of scientists analysed the language used by IPCC and concluded that her studies have become less readable over time.

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Informal Agricultural Council to discuss climate-smart agriculture

During the next two days (14-15 September) the Luxembourg Presidency invites agricultural ministers to an informal Council meeting which had been intended to focus on agriculture and climate change. Because of Commissioner Hogan’s absence through illness from last week’s Council meeting it seems that a good part of the meeting will be devoted to continuing discussions on the EU response to low milk prices. The time available for the discussion on how agriculture can best address the challenges of mitigating climate change will thus be curtailed.
However, the Luxembourg Presidency has prepared a very useful background paper intended to set the scene for discussions between the Ministers in three working groups.
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The Energy Union package and agriculture

Last Wednesday 25th February the Commission launched its long-awaited Energy Union package comprising three Communications. The first proposes A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy with an accompanying roadmap setting out a projected schedule for the implementing legislation. This document sets out priorities for energy and climate policy, with a particular focus on achieving an integrated energy market, ensuring security of supply including through diversification, improving infrastructure and interconnection, improving energy efficiency, and speeding up decarbonisation in order to meet the EU’s climate goals. In total, it sets out 15 action areas to be addressed in implementing these objectives.
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Agriculture in the 2030 Climate and Energy Package

The European Council comprising the EU Heads of State and Government will meet at the end of this week 23-24 October to take a final decision, among other issues, on the EU’s new climate and energy policy framework. The plan is to agree on the target level of GHG emission reductions for 2030 so that the EU can submit its contribution for the conclusion of a global climate agreement in Paris at the end of next year at the latest by the first quarter of 2015, in line with the timeline agreed by the UNFCCC. However, according to the EUObserver, there are still significant differences of view on the targets between member states, and deadlock at the meeting is not ruled out.

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