The EU Commission issued a Communication on deforestation and forest degradation Tuesday, setting out a much-needed plan of action to address the EU's significant contribution to global deforestation.
With the world's forests hosting some 80 per cent of biodiversity on land, support the livelihoods of around a quarter of the world's population, and are vital to global efforts to fight climate change.
The Commission's new approach addresses the supply and also the demand side of the issue. It introduces measures for enhanced international cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, promotion of sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and targeted research and data collection. It also launches an assessment of possible new regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and forest degradation.
The EU will not be able to meet its climate targets without protecting the world's forests, said Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans. He said the Communication was "an important signal to our citizens and to our partners around the world that the EU is prepared to play a leadership role in this area in the next five years, and beyond."
International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica added that the EU stands ready to work with partner countries "to protect and sustainably manage forests across the world. This is about food security, water, climate change, resilience and peace. It's about building a more sustainable and inclusive world."
The approach outlined today is the EU's response to continued widespread destruction of the world's forests; an area of 1.3 million square kilometres was lost between 1990 and 2016, equivalent to approximately 800 football fields every hour. The main drivers of this deforestation are demand for food, feed, biofuel, timber and other commodities.
Greenhouse gas emissions linked to deforestation are the second biggest cause of climate change, so protecting forests is a significant part of our responsibility to meet the commitments under the Paris Agreement. From an economic and social perspective, forests support the livelihoods of around 25 % of the global population, and they also embody irreplaceable cultural, societal and spiritual values.
The Communication aims both to protect and improve the health of existing forests, especially primary forests, and significantly increasing sustainable, biodiverse forest coverage worldwide.
The Commission has set out five priorities:
- Reduce the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains in the EU;
- Work in partnership with producing countries to reduce pressures on forests and to "deforest-proof" EU development cooperation;
- Strengthen international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation, and encourage forest restoration;
- Redirect finance to support more sustainable land-use practices;
- Support the availability of, quality of, and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains, and support research and innovation.
Actions to reduce EU consumption and encourage the use of products from deforestation-free supply chains will be explored through the creation of a new Multi-Stakeholder Platform on Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Forest Generation, which will bring together a broad range of relevant stakeholders. The Commission will also encourage stronger certification schemes for deforestation-free products and assess possible demand-side legislative measures and other incentives.
The Commission will work closely with partner countries to help them to reduce pressures on their forests, and will ensure that EU policies do not contribute to deforestation and forest degradation. It will help partners develop and implement comprehensive national frameworks on forests, enhancing the sustainable use of forests, and increasing the sustainability of forest-based value chains. The Commission will also work through international fora - such as the FAO, the UN, the G7 and G20, the WTO and the OECD - to strengthen cooperation on actions and policies in this field. The Commission will continue to ensure that trade agreements negotiated by the EU contribute to the responsible and sustainable management of global supply chains, and encourage trade of agricultural and forest-based products not causing deforestation or forest degradation. The Commission will also develop incentive mechanisms for smallholder farmers to maintain and enhance ecosystem services and embrace sustainable agriculture and forest management.
To improve the availability and quality of information, and access to information on forests and supply chains, the Commission proposes the creation of an EU Observatory on Deforestation and Forest Degradation, to monitor and measure changes in the world's forest cover and associated drivers. This resource will give public bodies, consumers and businesses better access to information about supply chains, encouraging them to become more sustainable. The Commission will also explore the possibility of strengthening the use of the Copernicus satellite system for forest monitoring.
The Commission says it will focus on redirecting public and private finance to help to create incentives for sustainable forest management and sustainable forest-based value chains, and for conservation of existing and sustainable regeneration of additional forest cover. Together with the Member States, the Commission will assess mechanisms with the potential to foster green finance for forests and further leverage and increase funding.