(Bloomberg) -- France warned that the ability of its lands and forests to absorb carbon dioxide is dwindling because of repeated droughts, tree illnesses and rising wood use.

The country, which suffered its worst drought on record last summer, saw less than half the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by forests and agricultural lands in 2022 than it did in 2015, according to non-profit organization Citepa. The French environment ministry called the situation “worrying” and said it warrants closer attention in helping the country reach its zero-emissions target by 2050.

France, like many countries across the globe, is counting on carbon-storing plants and soil to play a key role in its efforts to combat climate change. But the findings published Monday underscore the difficulty of relying on the natural environment to offset damage caused by humans, with global warming already taking a toll and leading to more extreme weather events.

Rising summer temperatures, reduced precipitation and more frequent and severe droughts are impacting the health of trees and forests across Europe, according to the Forest Information System for Europe. While the region’s forests remain a carbon sink — capturing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit — the amount they remove has been steadily declining over the past decade.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last October that his country should aim to plant 1 billion trees over the next 10 years to renew 10% of its forests. France wants natural carbon sinks and capture and storage systems to store about 80 million tons of C02 in 2050, but forests and agricultural land absorbed less than a quarter of that last year.

Dwindling carbon sinks “can be attributed to the increase in tree mortality due to repeated droughts since 2015 and sanitary crises,” as well as slower plantings and higher wood use, said Colas Robert, an expert at Citepa. The country should plant trees that are adapted to global warming, further preserve acreage devoted to agriculture, and reinforce carbon storage in farm soils, he said.       

--With assistance from Laura Millan.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.