The European Parliament (EP) has chosen between opposing visions of the EU’s future Forest Strategy. MEP Petri Sarvamaa of the Agriculture Committee (AGRI) proposed an own-initiative report that runs counter to the goals of the European Green Deal, favouring the expansion of industrial logging. In reaction, the Environment Committee took the rare step of not merely proposing amendments, but proposing an alternative report. But in its plenary vote on 7 October 2020, MEPs bowed to industry and voted for more intensive logging.
“The report they adopted flies in the face of science by ignoring the dire state of Europe’s forests,” says Kelsey Perlman, Forests and Climate Campaigner, Fern. “Rather than listen to the will of Europeans, who overwhelmingly want action to protect nature, Parliament has ignored poor forest health and the increased loss of carbon dioxide from forests. This report is so conservative it could have been written by the forest industry. If MEPs won’t act when faced with unambiguous proof, when will they?”
The EP undermines EU’s climate and biodiversity objectives in three ways:
- Although the report asserts that management of commercial forests has “the very best impact on the climate”, in fact heavily managed European forests absorb less carbon every year; the carbon sink is set to decline by one third within the next decade. The total area of forests ‘clear-cut’ harvested in the EU in 2016 - 18 was 49 per cent higher than in 2011 - 15; equating, in terms of total biomass harvested, to a 69 per cent increase.
- Even as global biodiversity is crashing and nations are consistently missing all targets to protect it, this report fails to recognise the need to protect and restore forests as laid out in the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Notably, less than a quarter of forest habitats ‘protected’ under the EU Habitats Directive show a favourable conservation status. This report contradicts established science that says we must protect the remaining 2 per cent of primary forests, instead reiterating the industry view that “the new EU forest strategy should promote sustainable forest management”.
- Finally, the opinion ignores the need to address the growing use of forest biomass in order to maintain the integrity of climate ambition, through a revision of the Renewable Energy Directive – this, in awkward opposition to the EP vote, a day later, to uphold climate ambition (FW 259).
The European Commission proposal on the EU Forest Strategy is expected in the first quarter of next year.