What’s cooking in Strasbourg? Swedish mystery

By Claire Stam
Schwarz-weiß Portrait von Claire Stam

So here we go with the acronyms:

  • In the coming plenary week in Strasbourg, the first topic will be the ESR. This stands for Effort Sharing Regulation, i.e. the sharing of efforts between member states to reduce their emissions.
  • Next is the MSR, which stands for Market Stability Reserve. This instrument aims to create price stability for production facilities covered by the EU Emissions Trading System. It is intended to create certainty and confidence among investors so that they can invest in green technologies and energy efficiency.
  • And finally, the queen of acronyms: LULUCF. It stands for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry. What this name doesn’t tell you is that it is about the contribution of land use and forestry to climate change mitigation, that is, the use of soils, trees, plants, biomass and wood. This sector is special because it can both sequester carbon and emit greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide).

This is where we now want to dwell for a bit.

Liese: the most important element of Fit for 55 alongside the ETS

For MEP Peter Liese (CDU), who led the now famous “jumbo trilogue,” LULUCF is “actually the most important element of the whole fit-for-55 package, alongside the ETS“. That’s because an agreement next week in Strasbourg would allow the European Union to raise its climate target from 55 percent to 57 percent.

Why is that? For that, we need to look back to COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh. There, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice president in charge of the Green Deal, had announced that the EU was ready to present a new climate plan (also known as an NDC) that would raise the target for net emissions reductions between 1990 and 2030 to “at least 57 percent”.

This is two percentage points more than the target adopted by the European Council at the end of 2020 (55 percent) and 17 percentage points more than the EU’s original target submitted to the UNFCCC (40 percent).

LULUCF makes it possible. The tentative agreement reached between the Council and Parliament last November stipulates that 310 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent as net uptake must be achieved by the European Union in the LULUCF sector by 2030. This means that the climate impact of LULUCF is very strong, much stronger than for the transport sector, for example, as Peter Liese summarizes.

Several tons above the target of the old federal government

“I want to make it clear that these are very ambitious targets,” added Liese’s party colleague and LULUCF rapporteur Norbert Lins. “We are currently at around 215 million metric tons. So that means we need to add about 50 percent over the next seven years to reach those 310 million metric tons.”

For soils in Germany, this means that they will have to absorb around 31 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent by 2030. “That’s a few tons more than the old German government set in its target. They had envisaged 25 million tons by 2030, and now we’ve raised that by another 6 million tons,” Lins said.

Because things are now getting concrete, the political debate about these hitherto subordinate dossiers is picking up speed. Two fronts are getting ready: associations from the agricultural and forestry sectors, for whom the targets are too ambitious, on the one hand, and environmental organizations, which would like to see more ambitious targets.

Swedish mystery

Because Sweden holds the presidency of the Council until summer, Stockholm is leading the negotiations. The only problem is that Sweden is a country whose territory consists of 70 percent forest. It is one of the largest timber exporters in the world. In Brussels, the question is how Stockholm will behave. Will it be more protectionist and push for maximum wood production?

It is important to note here that, at the same time, Sweden has an ambitious goal of CO2 neutrality by 2045, thanks to the enormous carbon uptake that its forests enable. France, for example, would not be able to reduce its emissions by 85 percent by that date, as Sweden proposes.


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