BRUSSELS: The European Parliament backed a proposal on Wednesday under which EU countries would balance out their carbon dioxide emissions with absorption of greenhouse gases by forests and agricultural land.
The plan, which was passed 532 to 144, requires member states to achieve a balance by 2030. Lawmakers added a proposal that CO2 absorbed should exceed emissions from 2030.
"We should keep in mind that since we will not be able to completely stop our greenhouse gas emissions in industry but need to reduce them drastically, our forests need to remove more than they emit," Norbert Lins, the European Parliament's lead negotiator on the dossier, said.
The base reference level for each state will be determined by an estimate of average emissions and absorption of a country's managed forests.
If absorption exceeds emissions for a first five-year period, the credit could be "banked" for a second five-year period until 2030.
Material or furniture made out of wood could also count in a country's carbon storage based on the amount built up by the trees from which they are made.
A group of European forestry, agriculture, wood and paper organisations welcomed the vote in a joint statement.
"It is crucial for the European Union to keep promoting the use of domestic forest resources and the development of the entire forest-based value chain," the group said in the statement.
The proposal is part of a larger climate package presented by the Commission last year to achieve the bloc's overall goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.
(Reporting by Lily Cusack; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Susan Fenton)