On 1 July 2020, Germany will take on the rotating EU presidency. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will clearly put immediate crisis management and economic recovery at its core. But as scientists outlined in a letter to the EU, the corona virus strengthens the case for protecting and restoring forests, and the rights of peoples who depend on them (FW 255).
Germany has long championed the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement, which is yet to be signed and ratified, and still plans to push ahead with it during its six-month presidency. However a wide-ranging group, including fellow Member States and Brazilian and international civil society, are calling on the EU to go back to the drawing board and adopt stronger safeguards to protect forests and human rights – something the EU’s own Biodiversity Strategy also hinted would be necessary. As forest protection and human rights backslide in Brazil due to changes to rules under cover of the COVID-19 outbreak, Fern urges Germany to facilitate a debate amongst Member States to improve provisions for forests and human rights in the agreement.
Germany was also scheduled to host the now postponed/cancelled EU-China summit. We hope Germany can still find ways to launch EU-China collaboration to complement the new regulation on imported deforestation currently being studied by the European Commission.
The German EU presidency will be pivotal when it comes to the EU-Africa relationship. Germany plans to host the EU-Africa summit in late 2020, vowing to bring both continents closer together. The summit should highlight the vital role of civil society in making the Renewed Partnership and the Comprehensive Strategy with Africa work. This includes achieving ambitious climate and environmental goals that put human rights and communities at the heart of development efforts. Fern will be particularly attentive to proposals under ‘NaturAfrica’ so that the initiative promotes an inclusive approach to ecosystems protection and restoration.
Closer to home, Germany will also have the EU climate law on its plate, seeking endorsement of the 2030 emissions reduction target that many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) would like to strengthen to 65 per cent – well beyond the current level of 40 per cent reductions of carbon dioxide emissions that the Council have agreed to. Angela Merkel said that she would make seeking consensus on increasing climate ambition one of the German Presidency’s priorities; given rising public awareness of the poor state of German forests, it is to her advantage to endorse the upcoming work on the Biodiversity Strategy to restore the health of forests, and to recognise the role they could play to achieve climate neutrality in Europe.