EU Commission’s communication on deforestation: ‘A pivotal step in securing a much-needed plan of action’

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages
© GettyImages
Yesterday [July 23] saw the European Commission (EC) adopt a Communication setting out a new framework of actions to protect and restore the world's forests.

“The ambitious European approach outlined today is a response to the continued widespread destruction of the world's forests; an area of 1.3 million square kilometers 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," ​noted the Commission.

It said the Communication​ provides a coordinated and coherent framework at EU level for a European contribution to tackling the problem of deforestation, forest degradation and restoration; it sets out five priorities for the EU:

  • 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.

The Communication addresses the most important direct and indirect drivers of deforestation, but for those measures to have strong impact, the EC said it will rely heavily on a partnership approach. "We​ will need the full and effective cooperation of relevant stakeholders, including businesses, national governments, NGOs, civil society and partner countries."

The Commission has published a Q&A​ on the Communication. 

It believes this statement will help to continue raising awareness about deforestation within and outside the EU, by helping to maintain the political momentum and raising the sense of urgency of the need to act in a collaborative way to protect the world's forests and ensure sustainable supply chains.

Industry, NGO reaction

In a joint press release, the EU grain and oilseed trade, crushing and feed industry sectors represented by COCERAL, FEDIOL and FEFAC welcomed the Communication. 

“We acknowledge and support the European Commission’s ambition to raise public attention on deforestation and related climate change commitments at EU and international level, which are also reflected in the recent EU-MERCOSUR trade agreement chapter on trade and  sustainable development.

“We consider that setting up a permanent and effective multilateral institutional dialogue with exporting countries is the most effective way to address sustainable forest management and assist value chain partners to build responsible supply chains for agricultural products.

“We therefore welcome the Communication provision of a reliable and predictable institutional framework, which links current private-public sector initiatives and sets up a structure through which public and private actors can improve the coordination and efficiency of their respective efforts to halt deforestation.”

The WWF said the Communication was a ​pivotal step in securing a much-needed plan of action to address the EU’s significant contribution to global deforestation. 

Anke Schulmeister, senior forest policy officer at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:

“Deforestation and forest degradation are happening at breakneck speed. It's clear that the EU needs to radically rethink the way it consumes. The new European Commission must now get the job done: We need powerful legislation to ensure that no product linked to deforestation or ecosystem destruction is allowed to enter the EU market, and we also need to support producer countries to address the challenges and drivers."

Greenpeace EU legal expert, Andrea Carta, said the Communication shows that the EU Commission is well aware of the EU’s role in global deforestation, but that it lacks the political courage to call into question its trade and farming dogmas.

“Access to new markets for a handful of multinationals cannot outweigh the ecological, climate and human cost of trade deals like the EU-Mercosur agreement. The next Commission must show that its commitment to stand up for human rights and tackle the ecological and climate crisis is not just skin deep.”

Greenpeace is calling on the next Commission to urgently table new laws to ensure that products placed on the EU market are no longer linked to deforestation, forest degradation, or human rights violations, and that the EU financial sector does not underpin this devastation.

“New policy plans must also help reduce Europe’s over-consumption of meat and dairy products, which is an important driver of deforestation.”

The EU Observer asks as climate protests grow, Brazil's forests disappear at the rate of two football pitches a minute, and a heatwave has Europe in its grip, if new pledges from the EU can really help. 




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