This Sunday, 21 March, is the United Nations International Day of Forests (IDF), intended to celebrate and raise global awareness of the importance of forests. The theme is "Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being", a cause that Fern championed in our recent report looking at how rights-based forest restoration can empower communities, recover biodiversity, and tackle the climate crisis. It also explained that forest restoration must never be used to greenwash other sectors' lack of action towards climate objectives.
Restoring biodiverse forests helps wildlife, provides local livelihoods and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This will only help stabilise the climate however if emissions from agriculture, transport, industry, housing, and energy sectors are also reduced.
This is an issue at the heart of current EU climate discussions.
In its upcoming EU Climate Policy Review, the European Commission (EC) is considering new climate targets and changes to the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) Regulation. If the EC and Member States choose a “net” target of 55% emission reductions by 2030, industries and countries will be allowed to delay decarbonising as long as they increase activities that absorb carbon dioxide, such as restoration, reforestation or afforestation – all of which need proper safeguards.
If the EU were to allow companies and countries to protect or plant trees instead of reducing emissions, this could compound a dangerous global trend in which many of the largest polluters plan to rely on tree planting on an impossibly large scale. A recent Greenpeace study demonstrated that there is not enough land on Earth to fulfil fossil fuel corporations’ tree-planting pledges. As they stand, “net-zero” commitments will give continued cover to big polluters.
Some EC representatives are promoting bringing forestry into the carbon market. Their assumption is that selling offsets will create a financial resource that will incentivise the restoration of ecosystems, but if we don’t reduce emissions fast enough, these ecosystems may be doomed anyway.
So while Fern supports the UN’s push to increase forest restoration, we are coming together with EU NGO networks to send an open letter on 22 March calling on the EC to keep offsetting out of EU Nature Restoration Targets in the EU Biodiversity Strategy, the new EU Forest Strategy, and the review of EU climate policy for 2030 and 2050.
Categories: Forest watch