‘Climate heroes’ lobby for forest rules that could break the Paris Agreement

22 May 2017

The fight against global warming is being threatened by countries renowned for their green credentials, new research by a group of environmental NGOs shows.

The normally climate friendly countries - including France, Finland, Sweden and Austria - are trying to weaken EU rules on emissions from land and forests. They plan to significantly increase the amount of trees they cut in the next decade and are looking for ways to hide the emissions that will be released.

The NGOs examined the 28 EU member countries’ individual proposals for measuring their forest and land emissions - and reveal the impact they will have on the EU’s efforts to keep global temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The results, published in ranking form on a specially-created website, are released on the day EU Member States meet for the last time before EU rules on land and forest emissions are decided. 

The rankings have thrown up a number of surprises. Once forest and land emissions are taken into account, countries normally proud of their environmental record find themselves languishing near the bottom of the chart. Austria is 12th place, Sweden, 16th and Finland 21st out of 28.

Hannah Mowat, Climate Campaigner at Fern explained: “It’s striking that even the highest scoring country – Germany – still has a way to go before it reaches top points. The impact that forest management has on our climate is simply not taken seriously enough.”

Although the Paris Agreement mentioned targets of keeping warming to below both 2 and 1.5 degrees, scientists now say that if we want to aim for the more ambitious goal, it will not be enough to reduce emissions, we also need to remove carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. Forests are the only tool currently able to do that and Member State lobbying could remove incentives to keep them standing.

The NGOs hope to shine a light on Member States who seem to hope that the complexity of negotiations will allow them to weaken important rules without the public noticing. The emissions they are talking about have a huge effect on our ability to keep average global temperature rises to below 1.5° C.

The negotiations are also important for the vastly subsidised bioenergy market, because emissions from burning trees are only counted in the land use sector. If emissions are not counted there, the bioenergy industry will be able to keep burning, polluting, and collecting subsidies without any controls at all.

Hanna Aho, Bioenergy Campaigner at Fern said: “Member States meeting today must urgently reflect on what they are lobbying for. Some forms of bioenergy are already more polluting than coal, if we don’t measure their emissions when the trees are cut, we won’t measure them anywhere and the industry will continue to receive green subsidies to destroy our forests and pollute the planet.”