Leading researchers have condemned attempts to change the way carbon from trees will be counted in Europe.
The scientists fear that millions of tonnes of CO2 from forests will disappear from the books if the changes go ahead.
Trees are important carbon sinks as they soak up about 10% of Europe’s emissions every year.
But some countries want to cut more trees down in future without counting the resulting loss of carbon.
Europe’s forests have been increasing for the last century, and over the last 10 years the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches of trees have been added every day.
However accounting for carbon contained in trees is a fiendishly difficult task. Forests can both soak up and emit carbon depending on how old they are, and how they are managed and harvested.
As the European Union tries to put in place wide-ranging plans to restrict future carbon emissions, officials want to ensure that accounting for the impact of forests on the atmosphere should be based on sound science.
To this end they want to cap the use of forestry at the levels seen between 1990 and 2009. If countries want to harvest more trees in future than they did during this period, the loss of carbon would count towards the country’s overall emissions.
However several countries including Austria, Finland, Poland and Sweden want a change in these rules so that increased harvesting in the future should not be penalised.