LULUCF Forest Reference Levels - what does it mean for forest owners?
European Commission climate experts and national representatives have completed the demanding task of calculating National Forest Reference Levels (FRL) for the period of 2021-2025 for all the EU Member States. The delegated act was adopted on 28 October 2020.

The Forest Reference Levels were calculated to reflect the input from the land-use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector to the EU 2030 emission reduction target. Based on data from 2000-2009, a balance between CO2 emission and removals in the LULUCF sector, including the storage of harvested wood products, was calculated to give each Member State a national number on which to reflect their future emissions and removals from forests. These levels are not targets or forecasts, they are potentials for each Member State to reflect forests ability to absorb carbon in the future. The FRLs can be considered as a comparison index, where Member States’ performance on forest-based climate action is measured on five-year periods.

The dust of the 1st round of FRLs had not even started to settle when the Commission announced a roadmap consultation on 29 October to review the LULUCF regulation in order to reach the new targets for emissions reductions in 2030. In her State of the Union 2020 speech, the President Ursula von der Leyen announced the plan to reduce the EU greenhouse gas emissions at least 55 % by 2030.

How about the forest owners? What do the FRLs mean to their practices? FRLs are being reported on national level. They are an agreement between the EU Commission and the Member State. The LULUCF regulation leaves it open, what consequences there will be in case a Member State is not able to align their LULUCF sector actions according to agreed FRL. It is also unclear how FRLs will affect private forest owners and their management practices. Most likely Member States will steer their national climate and forest policies to the direction that the country will meet their FRL.

It is obvious that the first reference period (2021-2025) will probably be influenced by the economic downturn in Europe, which is enhancing this effect temporally. Private forest owners can keep on managing their forests sustainably and the actual role of the FRLs would likely be seen after several five-year reference periods have passed and reported by the Member States.

For more information on the process, please visit here.