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Why you should support a new European law to combat global deforestation

30 January 2019

Why you should support a new European law to combat global deforestation

From 14 January 2019 to 25 February 2019, the European Commission opened a consultation on how best to step up EU action against deforestation in order to inform the drafting of a new Communication which will be published in spring 2019. 

While Fern welcomed the consultation as a first step, we regretted that the Commission did not add questions about whether a new regulation is needed.

As a result, Fern called its supporters to answer the consultation, calling for a new laws to ensure that neither products placed on the EU market, nor the financial sector, cause negative environmental and social impacts like deforestation, forest degradation or human rights abuses.

Please find below some background information on why regulation is the best solution to end the EU's forest footprint as well as why the consultation was a key opportunity. Click here to read Fern's submission to the consultation.

Why the Commission’s consultation on deforestation could lead to a step-change in forest protection

For the first time in ten years, the European Commission is considering increasing action on global deforestation, going beyond the problem of illegal logging.

This is the result of years of tireless campaigning by NGOs, forest peoples’ organisations and activists. Following the March 2018 publication of a feasibility study on possible actions the EU could take on deforestation,the European Parliament and several EU Member States, have called on the Commission to take action.

The Commission has finally announced that it will publish a Communication in the second quarter of 2019, at the very end of its current mandate. Prior to this, and as required by law, the Commission has launched a broad consultation of NGOs, industry players, governments, other stakeholders and the general public. 

Why EU action could be a game changer and what we are calling for

Eighty per cent of global deforestation is caused by the production of agricultural products including globally traded commodities such as beef, soy and palm oil. According to a Commission study, an area of forest the size of Portugal was lost globally between 1990 and 2008 because of EU consumption of commodities grown on deforested land. A number of studies made public by forest peoples and forest defenders has exposed the serious social and human rights impacts of deforestation driven by EU trade and imports from tropical forest countries.

As a major consumer market, financer and trade power, the EU holds the power to change this.

We are calling for an EU action plan to end the EU’s negative impact on forests, to support global efforts to protect and restore them and to ensure full respect for forest peoples’ rights. Such a plan should include new laws to ensure that neither products placed on the EU market, nor the financial sector, cause negative environmental and social impacts like deforestation, forest degradation or human rights abuses. This could include mandatory due diligence to identify and mitigate the risks that commodities placed on the EU market, or investments by EU based financial institutions, are linked to these harmful activities.

Such laws would help the EU and governments to comply with international commitments to halt deforestation by 2020 – under the Sustainable Development Goals - and to limit the average global temperature rise to 1.5°C - the goal set by the Paris Agreement in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

They would also support and put pressure on the corporate sector to deliver on no-deforestation pledges and related commitments on land tenure. While many companies have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains and investments by 2020, they are struggling to do so. An EU action plan including binding regulation would create a common baseline for all companies, traders and investors. It would help level the playing field, thereby supporting governments and non-state actors to meet their commitments, generate trust and hold companies to account.

Why action on deforestation is more important than ever

Forests are essential for life. They guard against the worst effects of climate change by absorbing and storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide, give us the oxygen we need to breathe, and are home to a vast diversity of plants, animals and other organisms.Three hundred million people worldwide live in forests and 1.6 billion depend on them for their livelihoods.

And yet global deforestation is still rampant. According to Global Forest Watch, the world loses one football pitch of forest every second. Such destruction causes massive loss of biodiversity, often violates the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and contributes to climate change.

Deforestation must be stopped and forests must be restored. Recent research suggests that forest protection and restoration, together with other “natural climate solutions, can provide over one third of the climate mitigation needed over the next decade to keep global warming to under 2°C, which implies a high potential for forests to help limit global warming to 1.5°C too.

Indigenous Peoples and other local communities play a crucial role in the protection and sustainable use of forests. Their rights must be guaranteed as they face threats from the expansion of industrial agriculture, cattle farming, mining and other forces that drive deforestation.

Categories: EU Action Plan to Protect Forests and Respect Rights

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