The EU has flagged a target of lowering its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent, compared with 1990 levels, by 2050 (EU, 2008). Abandoned crop and pasturelands and sparse woodlands available for afforestation in the EU amount to some 50 million hectares, or 75 percent of that available in the US. Afforestation rates have been much lower in the EU than in the US, at just over 200 000 hectares a year compared with almost a million hectares a year. With a price of up to $20 per tonne of CO2e removed from the atmosphere, afforestation rates would increase and the EU would become a source of carbon sequestration by the end of the century, but still small compared with the US (Nabuurs et al., 2007; Sathaye et al., 2007). This is explained by the very high cost of carbon sequestration in Europe compared with the US; a study by van Kooten and Sohngen (2007) found that Europe was the world's highest cost region.
Meanwhile, even the relatively modest potential of EU forests to contribute to the stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations is not being harnessed. The EU ETS does not enable capped industries to use forestry offsets generated by plantation forestry in EU countries. A Commission of the European Communities (2008) memorandum reiterated the reasons for maintaining its ban on crediting forestry sinks. The ban extends to the generation of credits by avoiding deforestation in tropical countries as well as to afforestation within the EU. The EU's reasons for the ban on forestry are as follows:
• The temporary and reversible nature of carbon storage poses risks for companies and Member States.
• Monitoring and reporting methods do not match the standard currently adopted by installations in the EU ETS.
• Monitoring and reporting is expensive, reducing the attractiveness of forestry projects.
• The transparency, simplicity and predictability of the EU ETS would be compromised.
• The sheer quantity of credits could undermine the market and would require limitation, rendering benefits marginal (EUROPA, 2008a: Clause 23).
The EU has undertaken a review of its policy on deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The review was in response to the agreement by the UNFCCC conference of the Parties (COP) in Bali, in December 2007, to address these issues though a long-term action plan. While the EU supports action to limit deforestation, it proposes to exclude emission credits generated by avoided deforestation from entering global markets; the reasons stated being the same as those listed above (Commission of the European Communities, 2008). Nevertheless, at the 2008 Poznan climate change conference, the EU, supported by a number of developing and developed countries, proposed the creation of an international financial mechanism for rewarding the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) that would lie outside but complement global markets (EUROPA, 2008b). Policy proposals for REDD are examined in some detail in Chapter 8.
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