On 11 February 2021, Austrian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Alexander Bernhuber of the Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“The Commission’s report on the state of nature in the European Union (COM (2020)0635) says that its analysis is underpinned by a detailed technical assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The EEA report uses two sources as the basis for its conclusion that ‘current studies suggest that these harvesting activities lead not only to a decline in forest area but also to potentially a more than 20 % reduction in their capacity for carbon sequestration’. This is despite the recast Renewable Energy Directive sustainability criteria which ensure that bioenergy activities may only legally continue if ‘harvesting maintains or improves the long-term production capacity of the forest’.
1. Is the Commission aware that the quoted report’s key argument focuses on the controversial theory that there is double accounting of biomass, which goes against the internationally recognised accounting rules of the UNFCCC?
2. The EEA report references the calculation made by FERN in its news release on the LULUCF national accounting plans, claiming that Member States plan to reduce their forests’ capacity to sequester carbon by 20 %. Does the Commission agree with FERN’s belief that forest management will actually lead to European forests absorbing less carbon dioxide?
3. Did the EEA report also take into account studies that show that forest growth and increased carbon sequestration are prevalent where active forest management and bioenergy activities have also been present?”
On 27 April 2021, Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius, responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “ The report by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) analyses the results of Member States’ reporting under the EU’s nature directives in support of a Commission report.
The quote referred to by the Honourable Member is part of the interpretation of the data reported by Member States regarding forestry related pressures on habitat types and species pointing to increased extraction of forest products and intensified forestry practices.
One of the consequences is the reduced EU carbon sink reported under the LULUCF Regulation, acknowledged also in the Climate Action Progress Report 2020. Member States need to transpose the enhanced Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) sustainability criteria for bioenergy by 30 June 2021 at the latest
Forests are important for safeguarding biodiversity, regulating climate and water and soil stabilisation and for the purification of air.
As such, they play a crucial role for achieving the EU’s objectives of restoring biodiversity and reaching climate neutrality by 2050, as set out in the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy, which also announced the intention to put forward an EU Forest Strategy in 2021.
The data collected in the frame of the reporting under the nature directives point to a need to adapt certain forest management practices and ensure an increased level of protection of old-growth forests for the benefit of biodiversity as well as for climate mitigation and adaptation.
A recent report of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre presents some forestland management pathways with respect to biodiversity and climate, highlighting the need to consider at least both of these, when addressing the issue of environmental sustainability of forests.”
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