European Parliament committees are undercutting each other in their eagerness to respond to “A clean planet for all” the EU Commission’s communication on the 2050 long-term strategy outlining how all aspects of society can contribute to fighting climate change. Where forests are concerned, it seems the members of Parliament (MEPs) either say a lot or nothing at all.
On 20 February 2019, the Parliament’s Environment Committee (ENVI) voted on a draft resolution: two large compromise amendments on forests underline both forests’ contribution to removing carbon dioxide and the fragility of the ecosystem. Positives included mention of measures to halt the loss of biodiversity, and consideration of the role of agroforestry and ways to reduce conversion of forests for other land uses.
On the other hand, one particularly problematic amendment attempts to promote forestry projects through carbon markets, an approach that has been promoted for years but has had no success in halting deforestation. So, amidst positive words for European forests, old arguments emerge, pushing outdated solutions.
This draft resolution was pre-empted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), who fast-tracked their vote one day ahead of ENVI. Their text is shorter, simpler and woefully incomplete: it lacks any comment on the role of forests in climate change outside of the word “bio-economy”.
Bringing forward the vote means that the ITRE resolution may set the tone of the debate and this has not gone unnoticed by ENVI committee. It is most likely that the two committees will compromise and move for a plenary resolution - where political parties propose and negotiate content before a common text is voted on in plenary. As many Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) want to get a statement on the strategy out before the next European Council (21 - 22 March), there will be a push to produce and vote on a text in the week of 11 March.
What is clear is that forests are a key part of the long-term strategy and Parliament cannot stay silent in their first public statement on the subject. In the compromise resolution, if MEPs can agree on anything, it should be on the importance of restoring degraded forests across Europe.