Management of land whether it is for agriculture, forests or settlements is important for how we address climate change and how we can achieve the climate targets in the future. The LULUCF sector can have both emissions and removals of greenhouse gases, it is a sector that is vulnerable to be impacted by climate change and it is a sector that provides products that help reduce emissions in other sectors such as through the production of wood for construction and biomass for energy.
Member States report emissions and removals from LULUCF as part of the annual greenhouse gas inventory submissions under the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action.
What the data are telling us
- Assessment of removals and emissions of CO2 from the LULUCF sector is done by classifying all land according to six land use categories and monitor whether carbon stored in the different land use categories are increasing or decreasing. In addition to the six land use categories, LULUCF also include changes in carbon stored in harvested wood products. In total, the LULUCF sector has removed more CO2 than it has emitted CO2 to the atmosphere for the EU for all years since 1990, making the LULUCF a net sink of CO2.
- Forest land is the land use that provides the greatest mitigation benefits. Forest land can also suffer the largest loss of biomass in case of forest fires, as well reduced growth due to drought, insect infestations and windthrows. This is visible in the GHG inventory for forest land with large interannual variation due to such events.
Land use is relatively stable in the EU, however, the forest area has increased for many years, which contribute to the annual net removals delivered by forests.
Organic soils including peat lands store large quantities of carbon and they are therefore particularly important for land-based mitigation efforts.
LULUCF is the only sector in the national greenhouse gas inventory where there can be both emissions and removals of CO2. Some land use categories are a sink of CO2 from the atmosphere and others a source of CO2 to the atmosphere. The management of land, the carbon pools and vegetation on this land determines whether the land is a sink or a source of CO2. However, land and the vegetation on the land are also subject to climate change impacts which can have a positive or negative effect on CO2 sequestration. In recent years the negative impacts have been very visible in the form of forest fires and insect infestation in forests. This has caused loss of carbon and thus emissions and is not easily mitigated by management. This also means it is sector with relatively large interannual variation in the annual contribution. However, overall, it is a sector that has functioned as a net sink for many years, not least due to the increase in forests area in Europe, as forests holds relatively large carbon stocks compared to other land uses. The sector is very important for balancing hard to abate emissions from other sectors to reach climate neutrality.
All data are from the annual submissions of GHG inventories to the UNFCCC and can be found both at the EEA data viewer (EEA greenhouse gases - data viewer — European Environment Agency (europa.eu)) and at the UNFCCC website at: National Inventory Submissions 2021 | UNFCCC