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News in brief November 2016

9 November 2016

The EU and other donors should take interest in the two judicial complaints filed by 244 farmers in South West Cameroon against SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), a large-scale palm oil company, for trespassing on their land. The first hearing will be on 9 November 2016. SGSOC, owned by Herakles Farms until 2015, holds a concession that encroaches on community farmland. For seven years local communities have fought the provisional 2013 land lease which was granted dubiously to the company by presidential decree. It will expire in November. National and international NGOs are petitioning the government of Cameroon not to extend or renew the lease. The EU and other donors should insist that extending the lease is inconsistent with implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) or with Cameroon’s climate commitments.

The European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has asked for shared competenceover the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) regulation (FW 219). If granted, the file would be discussed in joint committee meetings and be subject to a joint vote in Parliament. Close scrutiny of the committees’ respective competence shows that this is not warranted: while the Agriculture committee has competence over forestry, the Environment committee has sole competence over five LULUCF-related areas, the most important of which are climate change, biodiversity, soil pollution and climate change agreements. NGOs, including Fern, are concerned that this request will both delay proceedings and lower the substantive ambition of the file, since the Agriculture Committee has a dubious record on climate policy. LULUCF is an important plank of the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework, was led by DG Clima and is being discussed in the Environment Working Party in Council. Given these precedents, Parliament should deny the Agriculture Committee request to take LULUCF hostage.

On 22 November 2016, the European Commission is expected to issue two Communications shedding light on how it will implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets adopted in 2015. One communication is to focus on how the EU will meet the SDGs within the EU, the other on its contribution to the SDGs via development policy outside the EU. Fern is eager to see the role that forests and people play in these communications, and how the Commission assumes responsibility for halting deforestation and achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns. Given that commercial agriculture and EU consumption drive deforestation and forest degradation, its stance must be clear. Keeping forests standing and restoring forest ecosystems is critical to meeting many SDGs: SDG 15, which requires parties to protect and restore forests and halt biodiversity loss, but also SDG 1 on poverty alleviation, SDG 13 on halting climate change, and SDG 12 on sustainable production and consumption.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) hailed the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) programme as “innovative” and an example for other sectors to follow, during their 3 October 2016 debate. They further stressed that the EU needs to redouble its support if FLEGT is to be effective. MEPs indicated that the EU needs to take punitive action against companies that import illegal timber into the EU, and pointed to the need to address emerging issues such as Chinese timber consumption and deforestation due to agricultural activities.

NGOs in Cote d’Ivoire have pulled out of the drafting process of a new set of national forest regulations, alleging that their contributions are not being taken into account. The decision to withdraw, made on 3 November 2016, follows complaints from the national forest civil society platform (OI-REN; Observatoire Ivoirien pour la gestion durable des Ressources Naturelles) that the Ivorian government is rushing the drafting process. The drafting of the forest code regulations has taken place at the same time as the negotiation of a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Cote d’Ivoire and the European Union, and has involved most of the same actors. Participatory processes form the cornerstone of VPA success and credibility. The EU has encouraged the Ivorian government to be more open to civil society participation in the drafting of the forest code regulations.

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