Conservation forests shall maintain or increase carbon sinks of above and below ground carbon. All the Criteria are additive and shall apply together: • Criterion 1: Mandatory application of the following Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) requirements: o Develop and implement a forest conservation plan that identifies the conservation objectives of the site and the necessary conservation measures. These shall include practices that maintain or increase existing carbon stocks, considering the non-exhaustive list of examples practices under Category C in Annex F2. These should allow for application of other similar approaches, that recognise local specificities and conditions, while maintaining or improving soil quality, and biodiversity in line with conservation objectives; o Do not convert high carbon stock land (i.e. primary forest, peatlands, wetlands, and grasslands) which has this status in or after January 2008; o Harvesting carried out in line with the conservation plan should be undertaken in compliance with the laws in the country of origin ; o Any harvested forest should be regenerated after harvesting and in line with the forest conservation plan. • Criterion 2: Establish a verified baseline GHG balance of relevant carbon pools at the beginning of the investment; • Criterion 3: Demonstrate continued maintenance and increase of carbon sinks from above-ground carbon over time, supported by and disclosed through a forest conservation plan (or equivalent) at 10-year intervals, that shall be reviewed by an independent third-party certifier and/or competent authorities.
Metric and threshold:
Given the objectives of the Taxonomy, conservation finance should be enabled within the forest sector and conservation forest – which may have no productive value – recognised for their carbon sink role. It is therefore proposed that conservation forests are recognised in the Taxonomy, provided they can demonstrate maintenance of high carbon stocks in multiple pools and overall improvement in the forest carbon sink. Conservation forests are that in which the ‘primary designated management objective’ (FAO FRA definition) is that of conservation. Specifically, those forests where the management objectives are ‘conservation of biodiversity’ or ‘social services’ based on the FAO FRA definitions . Box 2: FAO FRA definitions relating to conservation forests 1. PRIMARY DESIGNATED MANAGEMENT OBJECTIVE: The primary designated management objective assigned to a management unit. Explanatory notes: a. In order to be considered primary, the management objective should be significantly more important than other management objectives. b. Primary management objectives are exclusive and area reported under one primary management objective should not be reported for any other primary management objectives. c. Nation-wide general management objectives established in national legislation or policies (such as e.g. “all forest land should be managed for production, conservation and social purposes”) should not be considered as management objectives in this context. 2. CONSERVATION OF BIODIVERSITY: Forest where the management objective is conservation of biological diversity. Includes but is not limited to areas designated for biodiversity conservation within the protected areas. Explanatory note: a. Includes wildlife reserves, High Conservation Values, key habitats and forest designated or managed for wildlife habitat protection. 3. SOCIAL SERVICES: Forest where the management objective is social services. Explanatory notes: a. Includes services such as: recreation, tourism, education, research and/or conservation of cultural/spiritual sites. b. Excludes areas for subsistence collection of wood and/or non-wood forest products. Forests cover around 30% of the global landmass (In Europe this figure is higher at ~40-45%) and absorb roughly 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. Forests regulate ecosystems, protect biodiversity, play an integral part in the carbon cycle, support livelihoods and can help drive sustainable growth. EU forests already account for more than 20% of the global forest carbon sink, and yet an increase in carbon sequestration from forests is essential to the achievement of a net-zero target by 2050 in Europe and globally. Forests can deliver substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emission mitigation through sequestration of carbon during tree growth and in the accumulation of biomass in soils, vegetation, leaf litter and dead wood (up to forest gate). . Conservation forestry activities can deliver substantial mitigation through: • An increase in the forest capacity to sequester carbon from above ground and below ground carbon pools; • Maintenance and/or increase of the soil quality, soil carbon and biodiversity. The Taxonomy acknowledges a definitional change from ‘conservation forest’ to ‘existing forest management’ if the objectives of the forest management change; or to ‘restoration/rehabilitation’ or ‘reforestation’ should there be the loss of forest from force majeure. The approach taken to determine metrics and thresholds rely on cumulative criteria. Selected criteria build on existing EU legislation and the Taxonomy recognizes that, although the EU has a variety of forest-related policies, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union makes no reference to specific provisions for an EU forest policy, and that the responsibility for forests lies with the Member States within a defined framework of established ownership rights, which include a long history of long-term planning in national and regional regulations. The Taxonomy sets out the following qualitative and quantitative mitigation criteria to ensure a measured baseline for progress towards substantial mitigation; and demonstration that this mitigation is cumulative (increasing) and permanent. All three criteria are required to demonstrate sustainable and substantial mitigation. Specifically, they are: • Criterion 1: Compliance with Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) requirements in order to ensure forest carbon stocks are retained whilst supporting forest conservation. SFM is defined as ‘the stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems’. The SFM requirements set in the Taxonomy are mandatory, but allow flexibility for the adoption of approaches that are regionally appropriate (providing that they are justified), and apply internationally (provided they can be verified via independent third-party schemes that are regularly audited), or under international agreements. This will allow investors, forest owners, buyers of timber and/or residues and forest management companies to verify compliance with the criteria in Europe and globally. For conservation forests, only the management activities listed under Category C in Annex F2 are required. • Criterion 2: The establishment of a verified GHG balance baseline, based on growth-yield curves in order to demonstrate that the forest carbon sink continues to be maintained or increased and GHG emissions from the forest sectors decrease. This criterion implicitly considers all forest carbon pools (above and below-ground) as identified in LULUCF regulation Annex I section B. Specifically: (a) above-ground biomass; (b) below-ground biomass; (c) litter; (d) dead wood; (e) soil organic carbon, with the exclusion of (f) harvested wood products in the land accounting categories of afforested land and managed forest land, which is beyond the scope of this Taxonomy. However, it recognises the challenges of below-ground carbon measurement. Therefore, the specific criteria used in the fiches focuses on the measurement of above-ground carbon pools only. • The forest Taxonomy acknowledges that setting a universal absolute threshold for carbon stocks is not a viable option given the variability of carbon sequestration is highly context specific. The Taxonomy therefore requires evidence of a positive direction of travel in terms of maintaining and/or increasing carbon stocks, specifically, the progressive increase of forest carbon stocks. • Calculating the GHG balance baseline requires knowledge of the area, the species and number of trees (in case of afforestation and reforestation). Using the growth-yield curves, information will be given on the annual increment in m3/year/ha, which can be used for the basis of the GHG balance. The methodology is consistent with the approach in the Revised 1996 IPCC Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (IPCC Guidelines), it recommends recalculation of the amount of carbon sequestered; 1 ton of biomass representing approximately 0,5 ton of carbon. Further one ton of carbon equals 44/12 = 3.67 tons of carbon dioxide. • Criterion 3: The demonstration of permanence and steady progress with respect to criterion 1 as reported through a forest conservation plan (or equivalent instruments) at 10-year intervals, to be subsequently reviewed by an independent third-party certifier and/or competent authorities. • Sequestration levels shall be reported at a minimum every 10 years, and performance shall be demonstrated over the duration of the investment • Measurement and reporting shall not result in significant burden to small-scale operators that may benefit from private investment as the taxonomy builds on EU legislation and national frameworks, and recognises the applicability of different scales of reporting through existing approaches to verification and assessment that apply above the individual holding level. These include approaches adopted at the national or sub-national/regional level, sourcing-area level (multiple holdings) or individual holding level. The Taxonomy does not specify which reporting framework is used, and thus allows flexibility to adapt to the national context, providing that the compliance with criteria and thresholds can be assessed for the holding level as appropriate for the investment. • Considering the impact of climate conditions and changing environments the Taxonomy includes a clause for force majeure that states that underperformance resulting from natural disturbance can be excluded from impacting on the achievement of the thresholds - and will not result in non-compliance with the Taxonomy criteria. International relevance of the forest Taxonomy It is the view of the TEG that the proposed criteria are relevant internationally, provided compliance with the criteria can be informed by providing evidence for meeting compliance or applying verification approaches, such as forest certification using independent third-party schemes that are regularly audited. Forestry operations that are FSC and PEFC certified are likely to meet the SFM and Do No Significant Harm criteria of the forest Taxonomy, with the exception of the Conversion criteria that varies across jurisdictions and forestry activities. This equates to 61.5% of total productive forests in the EU , and around 20% of productive forests globally. Other forests/forest projects (i.e. non-certified) may also meet the criteria, but it is not possible to estimate this part of the market with certainty. Note: whilst FSC and PEFC may satisfy Criterion 1 (ex Conversion criteria) and the DNSH criteria, verification of compliance with all three of the Taxonomy criteria will be required (including carbon measurement and performance). Alignment with existing legislation In order to ensure compliance with the criteria set out in the Taxonomy, it is appropriate to consider alignment with existing EU legislative instruments. The proposed criteria and DNSH requirements align with existing EU legislation in the context of forestry. It is important to recognise where legislation provides safeguards to ensure no harm to an objective and where legislation allows for more substantial contribution to those objectives. For example, Article 29 of the recast RED, sets out sustainability criteria for forests using a risk-based approach to minimise the risk of using forest biomass derived from unsustainable production, relaying in Article 29(6) on national or sub-national laws or if such evidence is not available on supply level, and in Article 29(7) referring to the Paris agreement or if such evidence is not available it refers to management systems in place at forest sourcing area level to ensure that carbon stocks and sinks levels in the forest are maintained, or strengthened over the long term. These aims are to an extent consistent with that the criteria proposed in the Taxonomy, and some of the DNSH criteria. Where the existing recast RED differs is that Article 29 does not require an explicit ‘substantial contribution’ to GHG mitigation. Furthermore, the compliance mechanism by which the RED seeks to ensure that these aims are achieved, is risk-based, however through a verification process. A risk-based approach assumes that if national laws or management systems are in place, that the RED criteria are addressed. The Taxonomy seeks to establish specific and measurable criteria, metrics and thresholds by which substantial mitigation can be assessed at the project level or at the level of the forest holding.
Key environmental aspects span across all other five objectives and are summarized as follows: • ability of forests to adapt to a changing climate; • impact on water resources as well as on water quality; • pollution to water, air, and soil, and risks associated from the use of pesticides and fertilizer; • impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems from intensification and conversion of land of high ecological value to forests and illegal logging. The DNSH criteria below should be considered in combination with the SFM requirements of the forest mitigation Taxonomy (criterion 1). The criteria can be informed by applying forest certification using independent third-party schemes that are regularly audited. Compliance shall be reported through a forest management plan (or equivalent) as per criterion 3 of the forest mitigation Taxonomy.
• Refer to the screening criteria for DNSH to climate change adaptation.
• Identify and manage risks related to water quality and/or water consumption at the appropriate level. Ensure that water use/conservation management plans, developed in consultation with relevant stakeholders, have been developed and implemented. • In the EU, fulfil the requirements of EU water legislation.
Based on legislation:
General reference to EU legislation
• Minimise the use of pesticides and favour alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides, in line with the Directive 2009/128/EC on the sustainable use of pesticides. With exception of occasions that this is needed to control pest and diseases outbreaks. Adapt the use of fertilizers to what is needed to prevent leeching of nutrients to waters. • Take well documented and verifiable measures to avoid the use of active ingredients that are listed in the Stockholm Convention, the Rotterdam Convention, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, or that are listed as classification Ia or Ib in the WHO recommended Classification of Pesticides by Hazard; • Prevent pollution of water and soil in the forest concerned and undertake clean up measures when it does happen.
Based on legislation:
Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive (Directive 2009/128/EC)
• Take measures to ensure sustained or improved long term conservation status at the landscape level • In designated conservation areas, actions should be demonstrated to be in line with the conservation objectives for those areas. • No conversion of habitats specifically sensitive to biodiversity loss or of high conservation value such as grasslands and any high carbon stock area (e.g. peat lands and wetlands), and areas set aside for the restoration of such habitats in line with national legislation • Develop a forest management plan (or equivalent) that includes provisions for maintaining biodiversity • Evaluate the ecosystem service provision with the aim to not decrease the amount and quality of ecosystem services provided. • Forests are monitored and protected to prevent illegal logging, in compliance with national laws • Promote close-to-nature forestry or similar concepts depending on the local requirements and limitations; • Select native species or species, varieties, ecotypes and provenance of trees that adequately provide the necessary resilience to climate change, natural disasters and the biotic, pedologic and hydrologic condition of the area concerned, as well as the potential invasive character of the species under local conditions, current and projected climate change.
Based on legislation:
General reference to legislation