The EU executive has proposed new harmonised rules to account for greenhouse gas emissions from forests and agriculture within the EU’s climate policy.
“This is the first step to incorporate these sectors into the EU's [emissions] reduction efforts,” Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said in a statement.
“In Durban all countries agreed revised accounting rules for these sectors,” she added. “The EU is now delivering with this proposal.”
The proposed new rules will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the European Council, along with an obligation for member states to adopt action plans for greener forestry, soil and agriculture practices.
A proposal for national emission reduction targets for these sectors “may come later once the accounting rules have proven robust,” an EU statement said.
Although they make up over 75% of the EU’s territory, forestry and agriculture are the last two major sectors without common EU-wide rules.
Efforts to mitigate rural carbon dioxide emissions have only been partly recognised by the EU, due to a lack of common accounting rules and problems associated with robust carbon data collection from forests and soils.
But following a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change decision on revised accounting rules at the Durban climate change conference in December 2011, the EU is now moving to reward climate-friendly forestry and agricultural practices.
“The proposal will also contribute to protect biodiversity and water resources, support rural development and have a more climate-friendly agriculture,” Hedegaard said.
Europe’s countryside absorbs large amounts of carbon, preventing its release into the atmosphere.
A 0.1% increase in carbon ‘trapped’ this way – through improved forest or grassland management – could remove the annual emissions of 100 million cars from the atmosphere, the EU says.