EU rejects US compromise plan on sinks

Agriculture and forestry carbon absorption credits "would cancel out Kyoto reduction pledge"

The EU today rejected a formula proposed by US negotiators last night to allow land-use and forestry sinks to count towards emission reduction efforts under the Kyoto protocol. After calculating that carbon absorption by so-called "additional activities" at the level proposed by the USA would effectively require the world's largest emitter merely to stabilise its emissions at 1990 levels, French environment minister Dominique Voynet dismissed the plan as "no major concession."

"The US proposal cannot be seen as a compromise position. The US would be one of the major beneficiaries from it...the sinks are escape routes from commitments," she said, underlining the deep rift between the two blocks. The stand-off has dominated debate in the corridors at the ongoing COP6 summit at The Hague, though many other differences on key issues remain to be resolved this week.

ENDS Daily has obtained the EU's calculations on the US sinks proposal. For the USA, they show that sinks created by forestry management and agricultural practices would soak up 8.2% of America's 1990 emissions, allowing easy achievement of its Kyoto target of reducing emissions by 7% by 2008-2012. But actual emissions are currently expected to be much higher than 1990 levels by that time, so the country would still have to make emission reductions in other ways.

Most EU countries would be only marginally affected were the proposal to be adopted. But this is not the case for Finland and Sweden, which both have large forested areas and which were suspected by NGOs before COP6 of being sympathetic to the US sinks philosophy. The proposal would enable them to increase emissions by a whopping 10% and 23.8% respectively, removing any significant pressure to cut emissions in other ways.

Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson reiterated his backing today for the EU's position that sinks from additional activities should not be considered until after 2012 unless scientific certainty around them is cleared up. "It's not possible to buy Sweden with a lot of sinks," he told ENDS Daily. The proposal "goes far beyond what is even possible to discuss".

Follow Up:
COP6 official website; European Commission Hague talks daily update. See also ENDS Daily's COP6 links.

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