Press articles reported that Climate Commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete indicated that the forthcoming Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) proposal on GHG emissions reduction will include “flexibilities” for the farming sector, based on offsetting.
The Effort Sharing Decision will propose how to divide a new 30% emissions reduction target (part of the EU commitment to reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2030) among member states for non-industrial sectors including transport, buildings, waste and agriculture. The member states’ ESD targets will be based on their GDP, with some consideration given to the cost-effectiveness of emissions reductions for richer member states.
Commissioner Cañete said that the proposal would provide flexibility for agriculture through measures on land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). In practice that could mean that agriculture emissions could be offset with forestry.
The Commission justifies potential flexibility for the agriculture sector on the basis the October 2014 European Council conclusions, which explicitly mentions “the lower mitigation potential of agriculture” and “the need to ensure food security”.
Flexibility between LULUCF emissions and sinks and the ESD is firmly opposed by NGOs, as it would undermine the overall environmental integrity of the EU climate and energy package for 2030. NGOs believe that the agriculture sector should do its share of the European effort to prevent dangerous climate change, and not be exempted from significant action, at the expense of other economic sectors. Like the SOLMACC project demonstrates, there are many practices that can reduce emissions in the agriculture sector, many of which also deliver other environmental benefits and positive economic outcomes for farmers.
NGOs also insist that the mitigation potential of agricultural practices and farming systems should not be considered in isolation of their potential for climate change adaptation and of their impact on biodiversity, soil health, water pollution or animal welfare.
The proposal for a new Effort Sharing Decision is expected by end of July.