European Union countries likely require an old ally Mother Nature and her forests to meet an ambitious post-Kyoto goal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020, according to new research.
The University of Helsinki study says that despite rising population and affluence, the EU can meet its obligations post-Kyoto (2012-2020). However, it will likely require more than energy savings, new technologies and mitigating non-CO2 gasses such as methane; partial credit for expansion of the regions forests could be decisive, say researchers Pekka E. Kauppi, Laura Saikku and Aapo Rautiainen, whose report, The Sustainability Challenge of Meeting Carbon Dioxide Targets in Europe by 2020, is published today in the peer-reviewed UK journal Energy Policy.
The study finds that between 1990 and 2005, expansion of above-ground tree vegetation in the 27 EU countries annually absorbed an additional 126 teragrams (126 million tonnes) of carbon equal to 11% of the regions emissions.
The rate varied from 10% in the 15 old member states (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France , Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK) to 15% in the 12 new members (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia).
The findings were surprising, says study leader Prof. Kauppi, who with colleagues in 1992 estimated the rate of increase of CO2 absorbsion through the expansion of forests at no more than 5%.
The study shows that total CO2 sequestered by EU forests relative to national emissions varies widely from country to country. In Latvia, for example, forests more than offset per capita emissions. And forests in Lithuania, Sweden, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Finland absorb a large part of national emissions. At the other end of the scale are lightly-forested countries such as Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Cyprus and Denmark.
|Contact: Terry Collins|
University of Helsinki