UPDATE 1-EU seeks tighter CO2 grip on farms, forests -draft
BRUSSELS, Feb 24 (Reuters) - The EU forestry and farming sectors will have to monitor and report from 2013 changes to land use that could affect greenhouse gas emissions, as part of the bloc's measures to curb climate change, under a draft law seen by Reuters.
The proposal, expected to be published officially next week, does not go as far as setting firm targets for limiting land-use change.
EU farmers voiced major concerns about the plan, while environmentalists said it would be a step in the right direction, especially because it did not rely on the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) to tackle greenhouse gases generated by land-use change.
Years of talks within the European Union and at international climate change conferences have struggled to deliver detail on how to protect forested land, which is valued as a sink for carbon emissions.
The EU needs to prevent loss of forests as part of its commitments to the U.N. process on tackling climate change. It also has an overall goal of cutting carbon by 20 percent by 2020.
One of the EU's prime tools for tackling emissions from industry and power generation is the ETS, and the bloc had debated whether land use, land use change and forestry (known by the acronym LULUCF) should be covered by the scheme.
Instead, the draft proposes that member states draw up accounts on afforestation, reforestation, deforestation, forest management, crop land management and grazing land management connected to carbon, methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Member states are also required to submit action plans to limit or reduce emissions, and the Commission may issue recommendations "with a view to enhance member states' efforts".
"Member states shall take due account of the Commission's findings," it adds.
Non-governmental organisation FERN, which tracks EU policies especially on forests, welcomed the "stand-alone" approach.
"It's much better than a link to the ETS, which was set up to deal with fossil fuel. Its accounting requirements, therefore, would never have been suitable," said Jutta Kill, carbon trading and climate change campaigner at FERN.
As a "one-way road", fossil fuels, which only generate carbon, required very different rules from the "two-way road" of land and forestry, which absorb as well as add to emissions, she said.
Kill said the EU plans went further than the U.N.'s accounting rules by focusing on concrete action.
New Zealand, for instance, has gone as far as setting firm targets in its attempts to control changes to forest land, although analysts have said it remains to be seen whether this has done anything beyond generating windfall profits for the plantation sector.
The EU agricultural lobby Copa-Cogeca took the uncertainties surrounding land-use carbon accounting as an argument against the EU plan.
"Copa-Cogeca has major concerns about the proposal. In particular, accounting for forest and agricultural soils should all remain voluntary due to the significant uncertainties linked to monitoring," it said in a statement.
Europe's paper and pulp sector, which had a turnover of 80 billion euros ($106 billion) in 2010, described the draft Commission proposal as a positive first step.
"It's good that there will be mandatory forestry accounting," said Marco Mensink, deputy director general of the Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI).
"The second step is the member states action plans. We will closely follow these as it is the plans that will impact our sector." ($1 = 0.7511 euros) (Additional reporting by Charlie Dunmore in Brussels and Jeff Coehlo in London, editing by Jane Baird)
Editors note - you might consider to read the article as well: California's forest protocol outpaces EU's LULUCF plans