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A recent history of biomass. Poland and Romania

In the name of EU climate policies, deforestation is sold as a green solution. This is not happening in far away tropical countries, but in some of the last natural forests of the European continent. 2Celsius and Energetyka24 brings about different perspectives, from Romania and Poland – in a EU context, on a “burning issue”.

The issue of biomass in Europe is a story that started with good intentions: fight against climate change, adopting renewable energy, eliminating fossil fuels.

It was though forgotten that the greatest energy source of renewable sources was not solar nor wind, but biomass. As we, Europeans, have decided that we need more energy from renewable sources, we insisted on more biomass. Even if we were initially thinking only when using agricultural or forestry waste that did not have other needs or uses, it was far from sustainability.

Finally, our renewable energy needs doubled, so we went into deeper sources and especially into forests to gather all the material that produced energy. Forest commodification should not sound that tragic; we always used and exploited the forests throughout our history. Most of our history was relatively sustainable. The forests provided materials, it later provided support to store our knowledge and memory: paper.


“When the majority of people were living off the land, with little mobility, it was natural to feel at home at certain places. One stayed at home, left home or went home. But home is not a building. The advertising of homes to be bought is not an offer of a home in the connotation relevant here. Home was where one belonged. Being “part of myself”, the idea of home delimited an ecological self, rich in internal relations to what is now called environment. But humanity today suffers from place-corrosive process.

Urbanization, centralization, increased mobility – with the perfect exception of nomads, but even nomads are settling at a certain point and crave to belong somewhere – the dependence on goods and technologies from where one does not belong, the increase of structural complication of life – all these factors disrupt and weaken the steady belongingness to a place or even hinder its information. There seems to be no place for PLACE anymore.

But the loss of place is felt, the longing persists, and so we feel the need to articulate what it means to belong to a place. The movement toward the development of a sense of place is strengthened through a tightening of the interrelation between the self and the environment.”

Arne Naess, Tvergastein, Norway – Geography.


They, the forests, have proven to be material units. They became wood volumes or parcels ready to serve man and fall under the axe of exploitation.

Currently, however, forests have turned into carbon credits on financial markets. They absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, but now, we use the forest biomass to remove the carbon from the atmosphere (!) We have monetized the forest from early history, but now we metamorphose it into carbon, which loses the quality of the ecosystem services it offers.

Forests help us fight climate change, but they do many other things at the same time. Most of our current policies are based on the assumption that the use of bioenergy, biomass burning or the plain and simple wood burning does not produce any emissions or they are at least zero carbon at the end of the day.

The question has always been about carbon emissions accounting: after the burning of wood, pellets, bark or sawdust, where do carbon emissions get recorded?

So we have originally agreed that these emissions are not taken into account in the energy sector but… elsewhere. No one ever watched them. Emissions should have been taken into account on the land side, where land use and land use change contributed to total emissions.

In addition, the ecosystem services have been blocked in an asylum of ignorance. Accounting of emissions from the use of biomass energy has improved over the past years, but only one share of the emissions will be considered.

New regulations can only be able to counteract failures of other EU policies, in particular the Renewable Energy Directive (RED), which stimulated the burning of wood. Member States based on the use of biomass energy should take into account the negative impact it has this on the carbon tank in the forest and to ensure that national energy plans do not threaten the positive role of forests.

The LULUCF Regulation (on land use, land use change and forestry) is not strong enough to ensure that the wood used for energy is friendly with climate change so that the renewable energy directive can not be based on this sort of energy.

Accounting of emissions at European level is done via two large emission reduction schemes. The first is the EU ETS – Emissions Trading Scheme scheme in which the emissions from industry and energy are traded to the initially allocated emissions (a certain price on a certificate, free, on the ton of CO2 equivalent in a cap-and-trade system).

The other scheme is provided in the Climate Action Regulation, the former Effort Sharing Regulation. The latter sets out the mandatory annual objectives of greenhouse gas emissions for Member States for the periods 2013-2020 and 2021-2030, while the objectives concern emissions from most sectors not included in the EU ETS, such as transport, buildings, agriculture or waste. This is a European policy through which the West takes over the new Member States’ part of the effort to reduce emissions and green the operation of economic processes. The ETS does not cover more than 45% of total emissions.

The EU allowances should not be confused with green certificates for energy in different EU Member States, Romania included. Green certificates are traded between electricity producers and suppliers and are invoiced at the end to the electricity consumers. Through green certificates and by ensuring their legal marketing framework (which is strictly national), investors in renewable energy are apparently supported. Renewable energy sources are included in the wind, solar, aerothemal, geothermal, hydrothermal, hydraulic (in power plants of power than 10mw), biomass, waste fermentation and sludge from wastewater treatment and biogas plant.

Biomass was heavily speculated in Romania (with green certificates) as a complete green source of energy. Starting 2014, via the Effort Sharing Regulation, weakness of LULUCF rules and other local speculations, countries such as Romania or Poland tried to bring about more use of biomass as a green source of energy, increasing pressure on forests and forest ecosystems.

Big press hits such as the Polish government’s attacks on the primeval forest of Bialowieza and massive illegal loggings in the Romanian Carpathians have an (indirect) root in the loopholes of the European legislation regarding carbon accounting.

Generally, forests are being perceived at best as providers of ecosystems services among which biomass prevails. Forest provides wood, wood turns into biomass, biomass turns into energy. Even in cases of primeval or virgin forests, the modern forestry is interventionist. Whether loads of dead trunks and other biomass “has to” be extracted or bark beetles attack healthy trees, foresters intervene in order to settle for the merchandise – wood.


Poland. Bialowieza, The Natural Cradle of Polish Identity Under Attack




Tomek, Tomasz Zdrojewski by his full name, greeted us with mint tea by the old improvised stove of a kitchen in a poorly heated wooden house on the banks of river Narevka. The house is carrying the long memory of its owner that passed away in 2015. He was a prominent figure of the Polish environmentalist scene, a true passionate of deep ecology, a Zen Buddhist, wonderer, and organizer.

Janusz Korbel left his legacy to a bunch of followers that nowadays organize the local civic protection of the primeval forest of Bialoweza and the communities around it.

Tomek and some of his friends that occasionally joined him hopped on their bicycles and circle the area in a zero-carbon monitoring of loggings or mere woodcutting in the Natura 2000 area that surrounds the UNESCO protected park of the Bialowieza Forest.

The ad-hoc guardian is editing a monthly ad-free magazine named “Wild Life” that passes on the ecology of wisdom for the general public. He finds the spruce bark beetle craze simply ridiculous and proposes sustainable forestry practices for the region doubled with embracing a deeply ecological worldview.

This, however, requires civil action and involvement of communities. Joanna Lapinska, librarian and charismatic leader of the movement called Locals Against Bialowieza Forest Logging, states that this is the first time in history when local people grouped and made their voice heard as being opposed to logging.

“For years we have only heard that locals depend on logging and that they want increased logging quotas, that cutting is good for the development of the region. We do not believe in these attitudes. We believe that the forest needs to be protected; we have to promote tourism and alternative industries that have wood as a source,” she adds.

It is not a formal group or a registered entity, they are just a group of people that need to say something and want to prove that logging is not the only answer to local development challenges.

“It all started from writing a letter to our prime minister. We collected 400 signatures in one week and we went to Warsaw to hand it over to the office of the prime minister. Since then we did not get any answer. More than 6 months have passed,” Joanna says.

And she continues, “the minister of environment is always saying that he cares for the people here, that he wants to listen to the people, however he never cared to listen to our group.”

The rather odd thing was that the foresters’ magazines had a flood of articles praising forest biomass in the last couple of years. Suddenly, deforestation that was usually related to timber production for the furniture industry became worthy of energy production. For a while it was feared the fact that Bialowieza wood might end up in wood burning power plants further south in the country. This claim, however, has never been proven.

Nevertheless, there is a need to engage people because “they are afraid and they do not understand anything about the bark beetle infestation. Lack of knowledge is tantamount,” adds Arkadiusz Smyk, Joanna’s friend.

The group carried out a diachronic research and looked through newspapers of the last 30 years. The discoursewas always the same: bark beetle is a danger, it is killing the forests, the community needs to get rid of the beetle and the affected trees, firewood is a necessity and so forth.

Starting late 80s the public discourse played the blame game. “Foresters cannot provide the proper firewood because the ecologists are forbidding us to cut the forest. Those sentences are all over the newspapers in the region for the last three decades,” says Joanna.

Local authorities are supposed to educate and inform people about the bark beetle, both activists agree. “It is never education, but mere scare,” Arek mutters.

Apparently local people believe strongly that the bark beetle will kill the forest. However, spruce is actually some sort of an invasive species in many areas around Bialowieza. Joanna narrates, “in my grandfather’s village there were these massive oaks; my father does not really remember them, but the moment in his childhood when they were cut down. Now in this place there are spruce trees. 60 years after the oak trees were clear-cut, they started chopping the spruce. And the reason is that they are dying. But they are dying because they were planted in the wrong place; there was no trace of spruce in the area before the 1960s.”

Spruce was planted mainly due to political decisions. Poland after WWII needed wood and spruce as a fast growing coniferous tree seemed to be the solution. Even today, spruce and pine are the most promoted as they yield relatively fast, explains Arek.

Joao Ferro is a professional guide that left the warm and agitated Lisbon for Bialowieza and never looked back. He is an observer, in many long years that he roamed across the primeval forest he gathered knowledge and a certain serene approach to describing ecological interconnections. The bark beetle is one of his favorite subjects.

Starting a century ago foresters began to plant spruces all over the area in a rather intrusive manner. “They were planted in brand new places where there were never any coniferous trees; many of them did not feel comfortable, did not adapt and were the first victims of the beetle,” says Joao.

What is happening right now is a “re-naturalization of the forest.” Most of the forest was planted, transformed by men mainly with planted spruces. “Nature, because of changing climate, and because the bark beetle is a reaction to this change, is affecting the spruces so much that oaks and elms and maples are growing beautifully in the area. I call it the dance of nature. The rhythm is given by human changes and by climate; plants adapt.”

“If the bark beetle is now more spoken of than before is just because some people are giving it more importance than before. It is not because beetles attack more trees.

They were always around and there are cycles when they come around in higher numbers. The beetle’s higher importance today is due to politics,” closes Joao.

So, after all, is it about a little beetle or about the politics aiming at larger exploitations of wood and biomass?

The issue surpasses this question. “It is about how forests are being perceived. Politicians in this moment in this country imagine the forest in a certain way. And definitely they do not imagine it as a primeval forest. They foresee a forest without bark beetles, beautiful, clean, filled with thin and high spruces. Biomass is not something that counts much either. They just need some good quality wood to sell.”

Entomologist Bogdan Jaroszewicz from the Bialowieza Geo-botanical Station (BIAŁOWIESKA STACJA GEOBOTANICZNA) reassesses that bark beetle is the natural element of the forest and it attacks the Norway spruce. Outbreaks such as the current one are nothing but elements of the lifecycle of spruce forests.

“For example, if you went to the boreal Taiga, each 100 – 150 years spruce forests are completely killed by the bark beetle and then they re-develop.”

All natural.

In Bialowieza Forest there are such spruce bark beetle outbursts once a decade. Generally, they depend on climatic conditions, and on the condition of trees. So these elements or factors that make spruces vulnerable allow for the bark beetle to attack.

“What we witness now here is one of the most serious outbreaks in the last century, that is true. However, it does not mean it is unnatural. It is a natural process, which is probably one of the ecosystem’s answers to environmental changes. Our climate is changing,” states Jaroszewicz.

“You know there are several people that say climate change is just a political issue, well, it isn’t, it’s reality. With the rising temperatures spruce will become more and more vulnerable to attacks of pathogens and insects.”

It is just as true that the scale of today’s outbreak is partly the effect of overrepresentation of spruces in the managed part of the Bialowieza Forest.  In the protected area, however, the number of spruces is half the one in the managed part. Spruces were planted and promoted by foresters and they cover habitats that are not optimal. In such places they will react immediately to climate change, explains the professor.

From an ecological perspective, it seems to be just an adjustment to recent climatic conditions.

But what is there to be politicized about such a natural phenomenon?

It is about forest policy, the professor says. “But in the case of Bialowieza I think the most important point is that in 2014 the whole forest was covered by the limits of the World Heritage Site and that means that we are obliged to follow some management rules and zonation that were proposed to UNESCO by our government before 2014.”

The political tension is about the fact that the latest minister of environment does not want to accept the zonation on different grounds. One of them is the idea that Bialowieza is not a natural but a cultural heritage. “This is not really a subject in this discussion. We do not know in what percentage Bialowieza Forest is natural. It could be that what we see today is centuries of interaction between humans and forest. I am almost sure it was like that. But it is also true that we do not have more natural forests.”

Politicians are trying to prove that Bialowieza is not natural, but a result of human intervention. However, this is not the point.

Is cutting or clear-cutting a solution for the beetle “pest”? It depends on what forest we are talking about. It could be a solution for the managed forest, Jaruszewicz says. Forestry is for wood production, so if trees are dying they are supposed to be logged, moved and sold. Bialowieza, though, is not a managed forest, moreover it is a World Heritage Site. “On this site there is an outstanding universal value: natural processes and habitats with their biodiversity. From this perspective, removing spruces killed by bark beetle, logging and artificial regeneration is damaging this universal value.”

Beyond its immense scientific value, Bialowieza is not a forest only for the eye-glassed scientists. “People need to see it, they know the value of it and they see that this forest is different than everything that they know so far. Pine forests on the edge of towns are very poor, here they see biodiversity, from grass and insects to big mammals like the bison, all in the wild,” says Rafał Kowalczyk, Head of Mammal Research Institute – Polish Academy of Sciences.

This social value of primeval forest translates also in the side businesses it creates. Locals’ main business is tourism. “I lived here for 20 years, I observed the change, for more and more people the main business is tourism: bed and breakfasts, hotels, shops, local produce, horse carriages and so on,” says Kowalczyk. And on top of that there are the research institutes linked to the protection of forests.

“People will not come here to see a managed forest; conservation and protection bring about good sustainable business for the locals.” It is the only World Heritage Site that Poland has and probably it is more popular abroad.

In a primeval forest one cannot even see the effect of the bark beetle. Spruces are just a part in the whole mix and moreover a dead tree means life as it is home and food for hundred of species. “If you cut and move a tree you are left literally with nothing.”

The forest absolutely cannot function without dead trees. Dead trees are a second home for many many organisms. I don’t know if scientists estimated how much of this dead tree is necessary for this ecosystem to function, what it means to have too little dead tree (this is certainly not the case in Bialowieza) or what it means to have too much – I think to this question the world of science cannot answer yet definitively, opinionated Tomasz Olejnicki, forest engineer in the area of Bialowieza.

“From the point of view of wealth of our country, Bialowieza and other forests are not the ownership of foresters, foresters only manage it, we were left with this treasure to manage it because we have knowledge about it – surely this is a lot of money. It can be counted, even if I cant do it in this second, but this is a lot of money we are talking about, there’s a lot of value in the forest, in the trees themselves. Nobody can tell how much dead trees should be left in the forest.”

Poland co-fires biomass with coal and the Polish government supported co-firing between 2005 and 2012 with large sums that overpassed EUR1.5 billion, reads the briefing Climate and energy policies in Poland edited by the European Parliament. The new renewable legislation, subsidies for co-firing were maintained in 2015. Renewable Energy Law thus allows the coal industry to capitalize on co-firing. Within the auction system for renewable sources, the biggest technology basket that raised up to EUR 2.1 billion is dedicated to what the government discourse names “stable sources” such as biomass co-firing installations belonging to the Polish energy consortiums.


Romania. Carpathian Forests Succumbed To Chainsaw Armed Vandals


Somewhere at the foothills of the Fagaras Mountains in the Eastern Transylvanian Alps a German speaking couple created and lead one of the most original foundations in Central Europe; it was named Conservation Carpathia and its purpose is rather self-evident. Barbara and Christoph Promberger aim at creating the largest national park in a mountain area in Europe. They were the first ones to ever implement a large carnivore protection programme in Romania, some 25 years ago, and they plan to save habitats by acquiring forested land from private owners in the region.

“The more spruces and forest monoculture is brought, systems become more unstable,” says Christoph Promberger. “Leave them as they are, with dead wood and everything, and they will be stable, and protective of literally everything, but mostly they will play their perfect role of carbon sink.”

When it comes to forest biomass, the best product one can have is the “biomass that stays there, in the forest, untouched,” adds Barbara Promberger. Indeed, climate change is an issue whose mitigation requires complex measures, however population and land use are the utter main problems, biomass remains a recent “green” finding, rather ridiculous in the whole climatic context, they both agree.

While Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries found and speculated loopholes in the EU legislation, Romania and other Balkan countries experience illegal logging as a paramount environmental issue. It is the result of endemic corruption as the forestry sector brings serious financing for political parties or political interest groups, mentions Laura Bouriaud, forestry specialist with the University of Suceava in Romania.

There are indeed indirect links to the loopholes in the European legislation, either Climate Action (former Effort Sharing) Regulation or LULUCF (land use, land use change and forestry) Regulation. It all ended up intro speculations with green certificates for biomass coupled with the issue of firewood.

The most serious problem with forest biomass is firewood. The legislation on biomass firewood was changed only in 2016. The first issue was that of the firewood crisis and the other was the impact on biodiversity. Over the last decade, the legislation has freely allowed firewood to be used as biomass, but in particular has allowed speculation with CO2 credits on forests, says Erika Stanciu, former state secretary at the Ministry of Environment in the technocratic government; shortly, it allowed the use of green certificates for firewood as biomass.

Firewood entered the equation when green certificates were adopted to set a price per tonne of carbon emissions. The firewood was eventually removed from the CO2 certificate transactions. The legislation that required it did not prohibit the use of firewood for people who are in need of heating but withdrew the possibility of obtaining green certificates for biomass produced from firewood.

The need for firewood in the country is much higher than what can be legally offered. The lack of almost 7 million cubic meters of firewood on the market is partly translated in illegal cuts. The government estimates only a minus of 3-4 million cubic meters of firewood, mentioned Stanciu. Professor Bouriaud stressed that we have some extra 8.9 million cubic metres of extra cuts in addition to the official number of 18 million cubic metres as presented by the Romanian National Institute for Statistics.

Thus, emission reduction combined with supporting the use of biomass according to European regulations is part of a set of measures that should make the use of firewood more efficient. It may indeed be more efficient in some respects, but small biomass power plants are businesses that are not on the market. The solution is for the state to support larger heat plants that use sustainable biomass (not just wood-based, but manure, straw, bale) to serve entire communities, Stanciu adds.

“How can you allow in this situation the use of firewood as biomass when there is no solution for heating the population that depends on this firewood? Many environmental groups claim that logs or roundwood have been used absurdly as biomass. This has created imbalances not only in the market, but especially in terms of biodiversity. The problem of dead wood in the woods has been put down for years, but the wood industry refuses to accept it; dead wood provides life cycles inside the forest, giving it durability for hundreds of years. The virgin, quasi-virgin or secular forests teach us where to go; foresters have to learn from the natural processes of the forest and not to impose their strictly economic and short-term vision of timber as a commercial transaction.”

Forested areas an essential laboratory for research and learning. If they disappear or lose their secular forests, it would be like we would have dismantled medical research laboratories and exposed ourselves to diseases, Stanciu concludes.

Whilst the EU felt confident with its new Timber Regulation (EUTR) aimed at preventing illegal wood to enter or leave the continent, massive problems occurred in European woods. Retezat Mountains in the Transylvanian Alps lost the status of Europe’s last Intact Forest Landscape in the temperate climate zone to become cheap firewood for Austria, Italy and Germany. A similar fate applied to many virgin forests that had no protection status whatsoever, says Gabriel Paun, president of the notorious environmental group Agent Green.

Romania was home of two thirds of Europe’s last virgin forests. 218,000 hectares of ancient forests created 10,000 years ago after last glacial era were identified in the Veen Ecology study published in 2005. All other forests have been simply devastated in a very fast way until the situation has completely spiraled out of control. Half of the logging in Romania includes all kind of illegal practices according to the EIA Global report, the organization that had a major contribution to bring the forest topic in the central attention of politicians and the media.

“Back to firewood”, assesses Paun, “we can see it as a major stress factor for Romanian forests. While the coal era is fading, industry, households and the power grid need greener energy. Some poor minds with shallow interests decided to grant green certificates for energy produced from forest biomass. It does not matter if the biomass is endangering wildlife or the welfare of the local communities. It does not matter if they just burn superior wood meant for construction just to make energy or some cheap briquettes or pellets. It does not matter if the raw material comes from national parks or virgin forests where carbon sequestration is astronomically higher than in a poor tree plantation.”

Destroying forest in the name of progress and clean energy is a “symbol of the perfect failure of the Government and of the EU Commission, denying therefore the basic rights of future generations to a healthy environment and putting offline thousands of species,” he adds.

What the stress means in numbers, Paun concludes, is that “half of the wood extracted in Romania is illegal and the country lost at least EUR5 billion from this in the past 2 decades.”

Currently, the Romanian Government is trying to take necessary measures in creating a mechanism of reporting under the LULUCF Regulation. However, the national forest inventory must be very clear. But it isn’t, says Bouriaud, and illegal logging is the mere cause of it. “Right now there is a commission that is supposed to compute how much CO2 equivalent the forest absorbs – they had to shrug their shoulders, they have no specialists. Romania doesn’t do anything under LULUCF and all it can expect is an infringement procedure.”


BACKGROUND of the BIOMASS ISSUE – A Clarification of Terms

Biomass. Coal is slowly being phased out and there is a strong need for alternative energy. More biomass from forests seems to be the (green) answer. But even dead trunks in the forest mean and sustain life.
As they photosynthesize, they produce hydrocarbons, which fuel their growth, and over the course of their lives, they store up to 22 tons of carbon dioxide in their trunks, branches, and root systems. When they die, the same exact quantity of greenhouse gases is released as fungi and bacteria break down the wood, process the carbon dioxide, and breathe it out again. The assertion that burning wood is climate neutral is based on this concept. After all, it makes no difference if it’s small organisms reducing pieces of wood to their gaseous components or if the home hearth takes on this task, right? But how a forest works is way more complicated than that.

Most of this carbon remains locked in the ecosystem forever. The crumbling trunk is gradually gnawed and munched into smaller and smaller pieces and worked, by fractions of inches, more deeply into the soil. The rain takes care of whatever is left, as it flushes organic remnants down into the soil. The farther underground, the cooler it is. And as the temperature falls, life slows down, until it comes almost to a standstill. And so it is that carbon dioxide finds its final resting place in the form of humus, which continues to become more concentrated as it ages. In the far distant future, it might even become bituminous or anthracite coal.

Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC). The same quest for alternative energy, and this time biofuels take the limelight, leads towards a pressure on forests as they are not agricultural land, therefore they are “not useful”.
Energy used to plough the land, to seed, to harvest and to transport is emitting more CO2 than what plants can capture. If the crop is not growing well, you can already emit more carbon than you save (Carbon per hectare). The thing is, when we have to evaluate the greenhouse gas emitted in the agricultural process, that gas does not have a national boundary so we have to do the analyses at global level. Whatever we do in Romania, Italy or Brazil it does not matter to the air because all gas ends up in the atmosphere.

Where will the biofuels be grown (land availability)? Agricultural land has increased in geometrical progression along the last decades. In Europe we are using less land, but if one looks at what is happening if Latin America or other parts of the world, we will see that Europe is importing soy beans, for example, which were grown on 50 million hectares outside. While Europe saves, say, 5-7 million hectares, it puts the claim of land requirement to other parts of the world.

What counts is what happens globally so we are using more land for our food production than in the last few decades and the question is will we need more or less land to grow and feed the increasing number of people. People are becoming richer so they will require richer diets. For the coming decades we will need more agricultural land in the world ONLY to feed the people, around 200 million hectares more ONLY for food crops and not taking into account biofuels. This is the background of the debate and on top of that we need biofuels. Each and every hectare that we use for biofuel, it will put the claim on even more land.

In the end, if we need more land it should come from somewhere. We will not use desserts so whatever we have in expansion are areas that are fertile and that yield a reasonable production. These are almost always the FORESTS.

Carbon Schemes. Until recently, international carbon schemes involving forests, land use and land use change were mainly focused on tropical rainforests. Currently, European forests, mostly from the Eastern side of the continent became objects of carbon trade.
European Trading System (EU ETS). The EU ETS was designed principally as a technological driver for emission abatement by energy and industrial sources. It focuses upon permanent reductions by emission sources. The EU ETS covers between 40-45% of all GHG emissions and it includes most of the power sector, large industries and currently intra-EU flights. Installations under the EU ETS need to surrender allowances equivalent to their annual emissions. Allowances are received for free, bought in public auctions or traded with other installations. Major impediments to inclusion of carbon sequestration by forests are considered by the European Commission to include hazardous re-release of carbon from forests via fires, high transaction and administrative costs, added complexity, remaining uncertainties in quantification, monitoring and verification of emission removals, and unresolved leakage issues.

EU ETS – The European Trading Scheme – could potentially provide a significant source of funding for EU forestry carbon sequestration activities. Afforestation and reforestation are among activities listed for potential funding using revenues from at least half the proceeds of auctioning EU emission allowances (EUAs) by Member States.

Effort Sharing Decision (ESD) turned into Effort Sharing Regulation (ESR) and finally, in early 2018, into Climate Action Regulation (CAR). ESD is responsible for between 55-60% of all GHG emissions in the EU. The largest sector included in the ESD is surface transport, which is responsible for more than a third of all ESD emissions. It is followed by emissions from buildings, agriculture and other sectors. Unlike the ETS, the entities regulated by the ESD are member states. Each country has an annual reduction target for the ESD sector. If they do not achieve it, they need to buy ESD allowances from other member states or make use of some of the available “flexibilities”. If they go beyond their allocated target for that specific year, they can save those allowances for another year or they can sell them to another member state. It is the responsibility of each member state to achieve their annual ESD target. Each member state has a different ESD target, serving as a sort of national carbon budget for the sectors included.

The land use, land use change, and forestry (LULUCF) sector removes more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases, and is therefore a ‘net sink’ for carbon. Some countries want carbon removals from forests and land use to count towards their emissions reduction efforts and thereby reduce the effort they have to make to cut emissions in ESD sectors, such as agriculture, surface transport and buildings. This could lead to additional emissions higher than one billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the coming decade.


Raul Cazan – 2Celsius

Gratitude to:

Jakub Wiech – Energetyka24

Clean Energy Wire (CLEW)

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