MEPs have backed a proposal to increase the target for greenhouse gas (GHG) removals through carbon sinks by 2030.

The vote would increase the GHG removals target for the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sectors, and de facto increase the EU’s overall 2030 GHG reduction target to 57%, a statement from the European Parliament said.

However, the official position MEPs have adopted also says that emissions from agriculture should be dealt with separately from emissions from “natural carbon sinks”, such as peatland and forestry.

The parliament adopted this position yesterday (Wednesday, June 8), backing the increased target by 472 votes to 124, with 22 abstentions.

MEPs support the proposal from the European Commission that the target for net GHG removals through LULUCF should be at least 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

Such an increase would essentially require the EU reduce GHG emissions by 57% by 2030.

This overall target currently stands at 55% as part of the ‘Fit for 55’ plan under the European Green Deal. Under the current plan, GHG emissions from the LULUCF sectors would be cut by 225 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The parliament also proposed yesterday to establish a ‘natural disturbance mechanism’ from 2026 to 2030 for member states who are not able to reach their annual targets due to natural disturbances such as forest fires.

Parliament reaffirmed its stance that natural carbon sinks are “fragile and volatile” and therefore – contrary to the current plans on the table from the commission – emissions from these carbon sinks “should not be pooled with emissions from the agriculture sector”.

The parliament will now begin negotiations with member states on finalising the change.

One of the MEPs who pushed for this change, Ville Niinisto from Finland (who is part of the Green group of MEPs) said: “The role of carbon sinks in EU climate policy is more important than ever in our pathway towards carbon neutrality.

“How we use land must be climate smart and this applies to agriculture, the restoration of degraded lands and forest management.

“The position adopted today by the parliament improves the commission’s LULUCF proposal… We encourage the EU and its member states to step up and support incentives for farmers and forest owners to take action for sustainable solutions in agriculture and forestry,” Niinisto added.