Fern campaigning is often behind the scenes and working towards long-term achievements. But 2021 was different, we reaped the results of seeds sown a decade ago or more.
Centre stage was a landmark proposal put forward by the European Commission to address the impact of EU consumption on forests. This Regulation will – for the first time – make it a legal requirement for products placed on the EU market to be deforestation and degradation-free. This is a huge milestone, and one for which we can chart a causal line from our activities to clear outcome.
Close behind was an ambitious EU Forest Strategy that for the first time centred biodiversity, climate and rural livelihoods and made a commitment to regulate European forest management. This was a fight we believed the Commission would never pick. But it did, because it realised not doing so would fatally undermine its net zero greenhouse gas emissions goal.
There was also a positive shift on arguably the EU’s most misguided policy of recent years: the subsided burning of biomass for energy. The Commission proposed de-classifying of certain types of bioenergy from its Renewable Energy Directive (RED).
And we cannot fail to mention that in 2021, the Commission officially put the brake on signing the Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement, over concerns about deforestation in the Amazon – concerns which Fern and our partners have highlighted unceasingly since the deal was announced.
But it was not all good news. In 2021 it became clear that the EU has failed to grasp the enormous governance challenges of protecting forests, and is becoming increasingly insular, no longer listening to Southern voices, especially from civil society. Early 2021, we got wind that the European Commission was considering to scrap VPAs because of a perceived lack of effectiveness.
This provoked an outcry from local civil society, partner countries, MEPs and Member States, and was ultimately quashed. But serious work needs to be done to ensure the EU once again appreciates the complexity of why forests are being lost and finds solutions in partnership with those who understand the situation best. Fern is making this one of its priorities for 2022.
Category: Annual Reports