The European Commission recently launched a consultation on addressing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and LULUCF in the context of the 2030 EU climate and energy framework Decisions on how to integrate the LULUCF emissions in the system which will have a significant impact on CO2 and non CO2 emissions from the agricultural sector.
In the EU CO2 and non CO2 emissions from agriculture have been accounted for in separate policies. Non CO2 emission are covered by the Effort Sharing Decision (ESD). They mainly concern methane emissions from livestock (CH4 is about 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide) and nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilisers (N2O is 296 times more powerful). CO2 emissions from agriculture are mainly linked to deforestation (or re-forestation) and soils. These are called LULUCF (Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry) emissions and are not included in the ESD. At the global level, emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land use, put together, represent 25% of total emissions. But in the EU, the situation is different, because LULUCF emissions are a carbon sink (-6.7% in 2012). In the EU the agricultural sector therefore accounts for 10% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions and about 17% of the non-ETS greenhouse gas emissions.
In its communication on the 2030 climate and energy package, the Commission suggested that the LULUCF and agricultural non-CO2 emissions could be merged into one new and independent pillar of the EU’s climate policy. This would weaken significantly any reduction target that would be put on the agriculture sector since it would lead to less projected CO2 emissions which would result in a lower reduction target. Another option suggested by the European Commission is that the LULUCF sector could be included under the ESD. Given that the LULUCF sector is projected to sequester more carbon than it releases in Europe, here as well the inclusion of the LULUCF sector would weaken the ESD target and would likely lead to fewer mitigation activities in the non-ETS industrial sectors than if the LULUCF sector remained to be treated separately.
What is at stake is whether the agriculture sector will be subject to targets and to what extent it will have to make an effort to reduce its emissions.
As part of the general 40% (compared to 1990 emissions) reduction target agreed by heads of states in October 2014, the sectors not covered by the ETS system, and therefore covered by the ESD (agriculture, building, transport…) will have to achieve a 30% overall reduction (compared to 2005, versus a 43% reduction for the ETS sectors). The Commission estimates in its impact assessment that the agriculture sector would have to achieve a 28% reduction by 2030 (taking into account the “cost efficiency” of the measures for each sector). But the effort will be shared among Member states according to their size and economic performance, meaning that each country will get a specific target. And there will be no specific national sub-target for each sector, whose importance vary from country to country.
If LULUCF remains a separate pillar, which could be the safest option as it would avoid the forest sink artificially reducing the need for mitigation efforts in industrial sectors, and/or in the agriculture sector, the question is if there will be a specific target for this LULUCF pillar, and whether the accounting rules will allow forest sequestration activities to offset the CO2 emissions from croplands which are reported under LULUCF.
The IFOAM EU Group will contribute to the consultation that the Commission has opened on how LULUCF emissions should be treated. Then it will prepare input from the organic sector for the next climate and energy package, which will set up EU targets for 2030. The Climate conference COP21 in December in Paris will also be relevant for agriculture as the French government signalled its will to agree on a work programme on agriculture as part of the expected global deal on climate.
These upcoming policy discussions, both at the EU and international levels, show how relevant the SOLMACC project is.
Organic farming can significantly contribute to reducing emissions from agriculture emissions both for crop production, and also in the more challenging livestock sector and contribute to adaptation to climate change by making agriculture more resilient, and the organic movement is active in researching and implementing innovative agriculture techniques that reduce emissions. But it needs precise data to strengthen its capacity to advocate for a transition towards sustainable agricultural systems and more ambitious action on the reductions of agricultural emissions at EU and national levels.
 Meaning that more carbon is stored through forest growth, than emitted. European Trading Scheme (http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/ets/documentation_en.htm)