French low-carbon label plants seeds of agricultural and forestry transition

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A new label in France aims to encourage the emergence of projects that reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions. EURACTIV France’s media partner Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Created by a decree adopted on 28 November 2018, the low-carbon label was officially presented to the Ecological Transition Ministry on 23 April. Its aim is to encourage the development of projects that reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions.

While the label does not exclude any sector, the agriculture and forestry industries are particularly targeted as these need to be mobilised if carbon neutrality is to be achieved by 2050.

This is the case of the pilot project developed by a forest management association located in Lozère, southern France, the ‘Association syndicale libre de gestion des forêts de la Terre de Peyre’.

It aims to reforest 36 hectares of pine forests severely damaged by storm and snow, using a variety of tree species. As a result, several thousand tons of CO2 will be stored in just a few decades.

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A guarantee for investors

The label intends to promote these projects throughout the country, regardless of whether companies, local authorities, associations or even individuals are involved. It would also provide a solid guarantee to potential investors, banks or companies committed to offsetting carbon emissions.

Several project leaders, such as the Community of cities of La Rochelle, which aims to be a “zero carbon territory” by 2050, are also seeking funding under a government scheme called “Territories of Innovation of Great Ambition (TIGA)”.

However, reductions obtained outside this label, for example under the European Emissions Trading Scheme, will not benefit from the funding.

Snowball effect

The label is also based on emission reduction methods – by avoidance or sequestration – developed by each project leader and approved by the French Ecological Transition Ministry.

“The aim is not to make foresters and farmers become carbon specialists,” explained Benoît Leguet, the CEO of i4CE-Institute for Climate Economics who was behind the design of the label.

“The most important thing is to involve representative organisations that are part of pilot projects, such as the National Centre for Forest Owners (CNPF), the French Breeding Institute (IDELE) or the French dairy industry council (CNIEL). They could then get the message across to their members,” he said.

The label takes into account emission reductions achieved within the scope of the project, such as employee travel, the upstream or downstream transport of goods, energy and materials used, etc.

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Tree-marking, afforestation, reforestation

The first methods, approved by the Ecological Transition Ministry last week, will be of interest to forest project developers. They are aimed at tree-marking (to keep only the most beautiful trees), afforestation and the reconstitution of degraded forests.

To reduce transaction costs (related to monitoring, reporting and verification), Benoît Leguet advises project leaders to refer to methods that have already been published or are in the process of being validated.

“Reducing transaction costs allows us to increase the costs related to the reduction of emissions,” the climate economist said.

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[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Frédéric Simon]

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