For decades, Fern and partners have campaigned to strengthen the rights of forest peoples and protect and restore forests. There have been locust years, when things went backwards, and harvest years, when plans come to fruition. Gratifyingly, 2021 was a year in which the forest movement achieved outstanding successes and we enter 2022 energised and ready to defend and build on them.
Here are the five things to keep an eye on:
Will the proposed EU Regulation on deforestation-free products lower global deforestation?
This draft regulation, once final, will require companies to prove that products they place on the EU market are legal and have not caused deforestation. We will work with partners to ensure the current proposal is not watered down, holes are filled and the Regulation goes beyond cleaning EU supply chains by triggering additional action in producer countries to protect forests and rights.
How will producer countries react to unilateral changes made to Voluntary Partnership Agreements with the EU?
As timber is included in the proposed Regulation on deforestation-free products, this could have a huge effect on countries that have signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU. We’ve started looking at how VPAs could work well with the new Regulation.
Will the EU start work on initiatives promised in the Forest Strategy?
Another huge 2021 innovation was the EU’s 2030 Forest strategy which, for the first time, put the climate, biodiversity and citizens at its heart. In writing a strong Strategy, the Commission picked a fight with Agriculture Ministries in Member States – who deny that increased harvesting and decreasing carbon sequestration and biodiversity are a problem. In 2022, the Commission will start working on the centrepiece of the Forest Strategy: a new EU Forest Monitoring and Strategic Planning Regulation.
Will the EU finally end climate-damaging support for bioenergy?
In its revision of the Renewable Energy Directive, the Commission conceded that some types of bioenergy should not be considered renewable. Pressure is mounting on them to go further – Fridays for Future is calling on the EU to go ‘Beyond Burning’ and the new German Climate and Environment Minister called burning biomass in coal power stations “insanity”.
What will the Brazilian Presidential elections mean for the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement?
France is at the helm of the European Council for the next six months. They have been primary opponents of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement in its current form, and with Brazilian deforestation rates still sky-high, it is likely that the deal will remain stalled. But whatever happens during the Brazilian presidential elections will have an impact on relations between the EU and Brazil, and on EU trade policy more broadly. Will future EU trade agreements require protection of human rights and forests – or will they continue to intensify destruction?