Fit for 55 package: an opportunity to further integrate coastal wetlands in the EU climate strategy?

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On 14 July 2021, the European Commission will unveil its “Fit for 55 package” proposal, which sets out to put forward legislative initiatives to get the European Union on track to meet its increased climate ambition, in line with the Paris Agreement. A revision of the Regulation on the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) will be held within this framework. Since the EU’s revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and related climate law, for the first time, take into account “removals” – which directly refer to carbon sinks such as forests and coastal wetlands – this revision is an opportunity to further integrate carbon sinks in the EU climate strategy. 

In light of this, the Ocean & Climate Platform, together with Conservation International and Wetlands International, releases a policy narrative looking at how the EU could further integrate coastal wetlands in its Fit for 55 package, as well as in related EU climate strategies and actions. 

The definition and value of coastal wetlands 

Vegetated habitats, coastal wetlands sequester and store global atmospheric carbon emissions at a high rate. In addition to their mitigation potential, coastal wetlands are crucial to climate adaptation, since they act as natural buffers against adverse climate impacts such as sea level rise or coastal erosion. Furthermore, coastal wetlands also have the potential to generate positive socioeconomic and environmental benefits (e.g. food security, clean energy, clean water, decent work), thereby contributing to sustainable development goals. Protecting and restoring coastal wetlands represent an effective solution to contribute to achieving emission reduction plans and climate action, in line with the Paris Agreement. 

The potential of coastal wetlands within European borders

Around the world, 151 countries possess at least one of these habitats [1], and the European Union is no exception. Considering coastal wetlands, Continental Europe mostly holds seagrasses and saltmarshes, such as Posidonia oceanica in the Mediterranean basin or Zostera marina along the Atlantic coast. Based on the estimate of saltmarsh and seagrass coverage of 3 million hectares in Europe, carbon stocks generated by these ecosystems could represent 1.5 to 4% of existing global stock from coastal wetlands [2]. In addition, the European Union’s outermost regions also account for a significant amount of coastal wetlands. As a result, coastal wetland ecosystems within European borders could greatly contribute to achieving European’s climate objectives.

The inclusion of coastal wetlands within the EU climate strategies and actions

In 2019, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to put forward a comprehensive and responsible plan to increase the European Union’s emissions reduction target for 2030 in line with the European Green Deal. In that regard, she proposed an updated 2030 emissions reduction target of net 55 % compared to 1990 levels. This climate target plan is presented under the “Fit for 55 package”, alongside the revisions and initiatives linked to the European Green Deal climate actions. The Fit for 55 could be an opportunity to better define coastal wetlands, and how they can have a greater role within the LULUCF regulation, to be in line with the EU climate objectives.

[1] The Blue Carbon Initiative (2021). Mitigating Climate Change through Coastal Ecosystem Management. available at: https://www.thebluecarboninitiative.org/

[2] Luisetti T, Turner RK, Andrews JE, Jickells TD, Kröger S, Diesing M, et al. Quantifying and valuing carbon flows and stores in coastal and shelf ecosystems in the UK. Ecosyst Serv. 2019. available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212041618300536

Link of the article : https://ocean-climate.org/en/fit-for-55-package-an-opportunity-to-further-integrate-coastal-wetlands-in-the-eu-climate-strategy/

Download the report here