Source: Small Island Developing States
23 July 2019: The European Commission (EC) adopted a framework of actions to protect and restore the world’s forests as part of efforts to conserve biodiversity, tackle climate change and support local livelihoods. The Communication introduces measures to promote better use of land resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and sustainable finance.
The EC Communication is a response to the “continued widespread destruction of the world’s forests.” Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an amount equivalent to 800 football fields every hour. Demand for food, feed, timber, biofuel and other commodities drive this deforestation. Further, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions linked to deforestation are the second biggest cause of climate change. Within this context, the EC recognizes forest protection as a “significant part of our responsibility” to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In the Communication, the EC outlines five priorities to protect and improve the health of existing forests, particularly primary forests, and to significantly increase sustainable, biodiverse forest cover around the world. First, the Commission aims to reduce the EU’s consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains within the EU. To achieve this aim, the EU will create a ‘Multi-Stakeholder Platform on Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Forest Generation,’ encourage stronger certification schemes for deforestation-free products and assess the opportunity for demand-side legislative measures and other incentives.
The EU will not meet our climate targets without protecting the world’s forests.
Second, the Commission plans to work with producing countries to reduce pressure on forests and to “deforest-proof EU development cooperation” to ensure that EU policies do not contribute to deforestation and forest degradation. The EU will support partners in developing and implementing comprehensive national frameworks on forests, enhance sustainable forest use and increase sustainability of forest-based value chains.
Third, the Commission will strengthen international cooperation to encourage forest restoration and halt deforestation and forest degradation. The EC will work with the UN, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Group of 7 (G7), the Group of 20 (G20), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) to strengthen cooperation on actions and policies and to ensure that EU trade agreements contribute to responsible and sustainable management of global supply chains. Further, the Commission will develop incentive mechanisms for smallholder farmers to embrace sustainable agriculture and forest management and to maintain and enhance ecosystem services.
Fourth, the Commission will redirect public and private finance towards more sustainable land-use practices to create incentives for sustainable forest management (SFM) and sustainable forest-based value chains. Finally, the Commission will support the availability of, quality of and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains and support research and innovation. To achieve this goal, the Commission will create an ‘EU Observatory on Deforestation and Forest Degradation’ that will monitor and measure change in the world’s forest cover and associated drivers of deforestation and degradation. This resource aims to provide consumers, business and public bodies with improved information about supply chains to encourage them to become more sustainable.
The Communication is the result of extensive stakeholder consultations on deforestation and degradation and possible EU actions, including two conferences in 2014 and 2017, a public consultation in 2019 and three studies. In addition, the European Council and the European Parliament repeatedly called for more coordinated action to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodity chains.
EC First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, emphasized that the EU “will not meet our climate targets without protecting the world’s forests.” He recognized that “our actions as individuals and our policy choices” in the EU have a “major impact,” and highlighted the EU’s commitment to play a leadership role in forest protection. Commissioner for International Development, Neven Mimica, said the EC’s action is “about food security, water, climate change, resilience and peace. It’s about building a more sustainable and inclusive world.” [Communication on Stepping Up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests] [EU Press Release]