Frans Timmermans, recently elected First Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of the European Green Deal, used the recent UN Climate Action Summit in New York City to present the Commission’s recent Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests and to make the case for regulation of forest-risk products.
Timmermans wondered whether, in the wake of the Amazon fires, protection of global forests wasn’t gaining similar public support as banning single-use plastics. He strongly criticised ‘neoliberalism’, insisting that “the market cannot and will not take care of deforestation”; instead, he made an enthusiastic plea in favour of regulatory measures to “preserve the worlds’ forests”.
This call for regulation reaffirms the Communication (FW 249), which floated the possibility of regulating EU imports of agricultural commodities to ensure that they do not drive deforestation.
Tacitly replying to emerging countries that had suggested Europe “reforest its own backyard”, Timmermans urged the EU to lead by example, in order to be taken seriously. He called repeatedly for “massive reforestation” in Europe, an endeavour to be “carried by the people, done by the people” in both rural areas and cities. He appealed to redirect financial flows, including in the Common Agricultural Policy, to make certain that funds support only sustainable land use practices.
A Fern briefing released during the climate week suggests similar solutions: a Green New Deal for Forests; binding rules on human rights and environmental impacts of forest-risk commodities, to be taken up in international trade deals; and reinvigorated support for the innovative Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade programme. The briefing also advocates improving the health of European forests by restoring degraded ecosystems and moving away from industrial forest management that is dependent on supplying the growing demand for wood for bioenergy.
Mr Timmermans is expected to launch an impact assessment for regulatory measures, as well as an EU reforestation initiative, in early 2020.