Climate measures in agriculture

The need and opportunities to accelerate the reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been underlined in a number of recent reports (see, for example, the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (2018) or the IEEP report Net-Zero Agriculture in 2050: How to Get There (2019)). Following a period from 1990 to 2012 with a steady decrease in EU agricultural emissions amounting to 22% in total, these emissions have begun to increase since then, growing by 4% over the 2012-2017 period.

In this post, I examine the projected trend in agricultural emissions to 2030, drawing on the most recent European Environment Agency (EEA) report on Trends and Projections in Europe 2019 as well as the inventory of policies and measures that Member States have taken or plan to take to reduce these emissions in future.

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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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Including LULUCF in the EU’s 2030 climate policy target

Today, Thursday 18 June, is the closing date for the Commission’s consultation on addressing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) in the context of the 2030 EU climate and energy framework. The consultation will be followed by a Commission proposal in the course of next year (2016). This proposal will be a very significant initiative, and will have large implications for land use within the EU, as well as determining the severity of member state mitigation targets under the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) to 2030.

Background

In 2012, agricultural non-CO2 emissions amounted to 10.3%

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