Harmonised context-specific soil carbon monitoring and its impact on the compliance with the LULUCF Regulation

The project MARVIC aims to develop a harmonised and context-specific approach for Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of soil carbon stock changes and greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions in agriculture, supporting the EU Carbon Removal Certification Framework regulation. MARVIC will be aligned with the Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, which focuses on emissions and removals from the land use sector and was recently revised and updated. Understanding this Regulation is very important because, while certain stakeholders might consider voluntary carbon markets as the main driver of climate actions, it is actually the LULUCF Regulation that imposes methodologies and targets for EU Member States, being by far the most important driver for nature-based removals at the European level.

The land use sector comprises, among others, grassland, cropland, wetlands and forest land and considers seven different carbon reservoirs. In MARVIC, we focus on four main Land Use x Soil Types (LUSTs), i.e., arable farming on mineral soils, permanent grassland on mineral soils, agroforestry/woody crops (considering both storage of carbon in soils and woody biomass) and peatlands managed by agriculture. Since the land use sector is the only one that removes carbon on the large scale, the LULUCF Regulation is a key component of policy making and one of the primary legal instruments that will enable the achievement of a 55% reduction of net GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, as agreed by the EU.

Concretely, this regulation defines targets for each Member State and a specific set of rules for monitoring and accounting GHG emissions and carbon removals from the land use sector and for the confection of GHG inventories. For example, it requires the differentiation of GHGs, the classification of the land into specific categories and the documentation of the impact of land management on emission factors or carbon pools. The European Commission, DG CLIMA and the European Environment Agency (EEA) have recently released aHandbook to provide guidance and orientation for the implementation of the LULUCF Regulation. This Handbook explains the different elements of the regulation such as reporting requirements and principles, including tips, examples and case studies.

Carbon removals by the LULUCF sector declined around 35% between 2010 and 2021 despite its critical role to mitigate climate change [1]. This trend needs to be reversed in order to reach the net GHG removals targeted for 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, and carbon farming will play a key role in the land use sector through land management practices that seek not only to increase net carbon removals but also contribute to the protection and restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity. In this sense, MARVIC emerges as a cornerstone endeavour, supporting the LULUCF Regulation in its need for accurate, thorough, consistent, harmonised and transparent information.

[1] EU’s 2023 national GHG inventory submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

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