Decades of achievements


Fern made sure that EU forests will play a key role in tackling climate change

Since 2014, Fern has been involved in complex negotiations about EU land use policies. Fern brings NGOs, academics and scientists together to ensure a wide chorus of voices call for EU forests’ carbon storing capacity to be increased as well as, not instead of, emissions reductions in energy and transport.

In the most recent review of the Land Use Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation, adopted in 2023, we successfully advocated for biodiversity criteria and targets to remove 310 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere by the year 2030 - the equivalent of taking a quarter of a billion fossil-fuelled cars off the road for a year! The previous climate target would have promoted further forest harvesting, this new one requires Member States to grow their carbon sink and address the impacts of intensive forestry.


Fern convinced the European Union and key EU Member States to pledge to make tackling global deforestation a priority

In 2008, thanks to Fern’s advocacy, the European Union committed to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 and to reduce gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 per cent by 2020 compared to 2008 levels.

In 2019, following five years of campaigning (including the publication of our report ‘Stolen goods’ showing that key EU Member States were complicit in buying ingredients tainted with illegal deforestation; and a petition initiated by Fern and signed by 230,000+ citizens), the European Commission published a long awaited Communication on “Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests". In this document, the Commission, for the first time, opens the door to regulating EU's supply chains in order to prevent the risk of deforestation associated with imports of agricultural commodities into the EU.


Fern convinced the EU to regulate against imported deforestation 

In March 2015, Board member David Kaimowitz told a Fern conference, that Europe’s supermarkets had been converted into crime scenes as tropical forests were being cleared illegally for soy, beef, palm oil and other commodities and ending up on Europe’s supermarket shelves

The aim was to encourage the EU to pass a Deforestation Regulation, but at the time this seemed unattainable and utopic. Passing the EU Timber Regulation had been difficult - but the timber industry is minor compared with the huge multinational corporations trading in beef, palm oil and soybeans.   

Yet it has happened! The hard work of Fern, and its allies and organisations in the global South, played an important role and we now have the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products which holds companies to account for deforestation associated with seven key commodites, as well as a commitment to engage in partnerships with producer countries to support them in lowering deforestation levels across the board. 


Fern reduced loopholes in emissions counting

Fern exposed the fallacies of carbon trading, preventing forests from being included in the EU Emissions Trading System and making it more difficult for them to be included in the subsequent emissions trading schemes that followed.


Fern helped reduce EU illegal tropical timber imports by 60 per cent 

In 2003, Fern helped define the EU’s flagship programme to tackle illegal logging: the unique FLEGT Action Plan bans illegal timber from entering the EU market, improves local democracy and empowers civil society to protect forests.

Along with the EU timber regulation, this led a drastic change in the EU’s consumption pattern: illegal tropical timber imports were reduced by 60 per cent, from 3.4 million tons in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2014.


Fern supported local NGOs to clarify who owns the forest and improve the way they are managed 

Since the adoption of the FLEGT action plan, 187 new NGOs in six countries have participated in shaping national forest policies which cover 87.32 million hectares of tree cover - the size of Germany and France combined.

Fern coordinated meetings, trained partner NGOs and raised more than €6 million of EU and British funding for partners to be involved in defining the policies that will affect their lives and livelihoods.


Fern ensured that the European Commission included environmental impact assessments in its aid programmes 

In 2007, Fern successfully convinced the European Commission to introduce environmental impact assessments in development aid programmes. EU’s official development assistance commitments for climate change mitigation increased more than four-fold between 2007 and 2011, reaching just short of €1 billion in 2011. 


Fern built a coalition which halted biodiversity offsetting

Fern built a coalition of NGOs to challenge EU and Member State plans for biodiversity offsetting. This coalition managed to halt plans for such policies in the UK and the EU, thereby protecting old growth forests which can no longer be cut with the promise of “improving something else, somewhere else.”

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