The EU is currently debating how to reverse biodiversity loss in forests and other ecosystems, both in Europe and internationally. On 8 June 2021, the European Parliament chose to support the position its Environment Committee (ENVI) adopted, 28 May, in the “EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives”.
At the international level, the European Parliament called for specific biodiversity targets abroad. While it recognises the role of Indigenous Peoples in protecting biodiversity and calls for including them in policy making, the European Parliament failed to stress that international targets should first be informed by how they will impact forest peoples. Environmental protection and restoration must go hand in hand with strengthening rights and livelihoods, and there can be no exception.
Regarding European forests, ENVI’s calls to action are clear:
- The EU must establish an EU Nature Restoration Plan and adopt an ambitious carbon removals target in line with biodiversity objectives;
- The EU must adopt a specific and binding target for the restoration and protection of forest ecosystems, including ensuring strict protection of the few remaining primary and old-growth forests;
- The EU must integrate climate, biodiversity protection and restoration into the new EU forest strategy;
- The EU must revise and align EU rules on the use of biomass for energy under the Renewable Energy Directive and the Taxonomy Regulation;
- Member States must strengthen legislation against illegal logging.
Such calls are directly linked to the upcoming legislation on legally binding nature restoration targets expected at the end of this year.
The European Commission, meanwhile, is undertaking closed workshops to elaborate their thinking on how to formulate such nature restoration targets. The latest meeting took place 25 May, and Commission officials shared their current ideas around forest restoration targets, which seem hesitant and unambitious.
Instead of broad targets covering ecosystems across all EU forests, the Commission outlined specific targets only for a small percentage of ecosystems protected under the Habitats directive, which cover around a quarter of EU forests. This tentative step was combined with a wait-and-see strategy for other forests in dire need of restoration. For these managed forests, officials suggested that a process could be developed to set up monitoring, develop indicators to track a target (deadwood or tree crown coverage), and develop baselines (amount of deadwood and trees in a given area).
Pertinently, most of this information is already recorded by Member States; the EU needs merely to compile it, so it appears that the Commission is choosing to push effective action further down the road. If the European Commission and Member States intend to uphold their pledges to step up efforts against biodiversity loss, then heeding the Parliament’s call to act is a necessary first step.