Europe’s proposed climate plan will outsource deforestation and harm biodiversity

Dec. 2, 2022

In July 2021, the European Union proposed a policy package, known as "Fit for 55," that aimed to reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions by fifty-five percent by 2030. However, a new analysis by Princeton University and scientists from several European institutions, chronicled in Nature, finds that the current Fit for 55 laws will sacrifice carbon storage and biodiversity in Europe and outsource deforestation to other parts of the world.

“The plan sacrifices Europe’s great opportunity for a beneficial land future -- one with more habitat, carbon storage and biodiversity in Europe and one that eliminates Europe’s contribution to deforestation abroad,” said Tim Searchinger, senior research scholar at Princeton University and lead author of the new paper. 

The researchers find that the Fit for 55 plan will lead to a doubling of Europe’s demand for bioenergy, cause Europe to divert twenty percent of its cropland to energy crops, and increase the import of wood for bioenergy four-fold. It does so because the bioenergy provisions in effect treat land as free by ignoring the climate value either of using land to produce food or to store carbon in habitats in Europe.

According to the researchers, with negotiations still underway, the EU has an opportunity to correct its land accounting errors and avoid some of these costs. 

“The best hope now is to freeze the amount of wood that European countries can burn and claim reduces greenhouse gases,” Searchinger said. “Longer-term reforms will still be needed to stop Europe from outsourcing its food supply and increasing global deforestation.”

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