Blog Posts Ellen Huan-Niemi Climate

In July 2016, the European Commission proposed a regulation regarding the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use and forestry in the EU 2030 climate and energy framework. This would be the first time that the land-use sector is formally included in EU climate policy.

The proposed regulation would require EU member states to balance emissions and removals from the land-use sector over two five-year periods between 2021 and 2030. It sets out accounting rules and allows for certain flexibilities. The proposed regulation is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Under the current Kyoto accounting rules, the combustion of biomass counts as zero in the energy sector while the resulting carbon stock changes are accounted as emissions in the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector. This avoids double counting of emissions.

In the upcoming EU 2030 climate and energy framework, bioenergy emissions are included in the EU’s domestic reduction target and fully counted under the LULUCF sector. Moreover, by accounting for emissions generated by biomass use, the European Commission wants to balance the EU climate policy framework in the absence of uniform international rules after the end of the Kyoto regime. Therefore, additional mitigation efforts are needed both in the agricultural sector and LULUCF sector.

However, it is very costly for Finland to induce greater mitigation in greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector without further reduction in agricultural production. Hence, the extra harvesting of forest relative to the Forest Reference Level (FRL) will create an extra burden for the sectors outside the Emissions Trading System (non-ETS sectors are agriculture, transport, buildings, and waste management) because “a debit” (net emissions) from the LULUCF sector may be compensated by greater greenhouse gas savings from the non-ETS sectors.

The extra harvesting of forest relative to the Forest Reference Level (FRL) will create an extra burden for the sectors outside the Emissions Trading System.

The other alternative would be Finnish taxpayers’ transfers to buy LULUCF units from other EU member states. However, this would be unsustainable for the Finnish Budget. As a result, new mitigation tools and climate policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Finland are needed both in the agricultural and forestry sectors.

Presently, forest management in the LULUCF sector is a huge carbon sink, but the total carbon sink is reduced by emissions from organic soils due to agricultural and forestry production. In 2014, emissions from 4.7 million ha of forest land on organic soil amounted to 6.8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents and emissions from 0.25 million ha of cropland on organic soils amounted to 6.1 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Even though afforestation decreases greenhouse gas emissions, it does not offer an immediate mitigation solution, since emissions from organic soils originating from afforested former cropland remain high for decades.

Greenhouse gas mitigation options from forest land and agricultural land are currently being investigated in Luke. For example, continuous-cover forestry and ash fertilization management under forest management, optimizing agricultural land use, permanent grasslands, and crop rotation. Furthermore, an extensive mapping of greenhouse gas emissions from forest land on organic soils has been executed, and the data are available for accounting purposes. Novel data to support improved inventory will be available in the next few years from work done in Luke and the University of Helsinki.

There should be efforts to group together specialists and researchers in agricultural policies, forestry policies, and climate policies.

On the other hand, the availability of emissions data from croplands and grasslands on organic soils are very limited. As a result, reliable and compatible measurements at the farm level are needed to formulate new mitigation tools and climate policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Finland. In addition, there is a need to formulate and create relevant indicators to demonstrate and account for the mitigated greenhouse gas emissions both at the farm level and at the national level.

More importantly, there should be efforts to group together specialists and researchers in agricultural policies, forestry policies, and climate policies. These efforts are essential to formulate cost efficient and effective climate policies and mitigation tools for Finland in the attempt to fulfill both the forthcoming LULUCF Regulation and Effort Sharing Regulation.

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