EU commits to boost global forest protection effort

© Courtesy TFT

The EU has pledged to support spread of sustainable, biodiverse forest coverage worldwide. In July the European Commission adopted the EU Communication ‘Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests’.

The STTC welcomed the new development as in line with its objective to grow the EU market for verified sustainable tropical timber. At the same time, IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative urged further steps, including using regulation and demand, to drive development of deforestation free supply chains.

The EU communication proposes creation of a ‘multi-stakeholder platform’ and an EU Observatory on deforestation and forest degradation. It also advocates exploration of forest protection  legislative measures, and reinforcing implementation of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to combat illegal logging.

At its core are five policy priorities for the EU. To:

  • Reduce the EU’s consumption footprint on land and encourage consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains
  • Work with producer countries to reduce pressures on forests and “deforest-proof” EU development cooperation
  • Strengthen international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation, and promote reforestation
  • Redirect finance to more sustainable land-use practices
  • Increase provision of information and back research on forests and commodity supply chains

“Setting out these policy priorities is a positive step and the strategy shares key goals with the STTC and its partners,” said Nienke Sleurink of the STTC . “The STTC’s aim is also to ensure deforestation-free timber supply chains and forest maintenance through supporting uptake of sustainable timber procurement policy and so drive the spread of sustainable forest management. It also welcomes increased backing for forest research, with another STTC strategy being to support development of markets for verified sustainable lesser used tropical species and so make sustainable forest management more economically viable.”

ATIBT’s Fair & Precious campaign has also been active in moves to achieve deforestation-free supply chains in forest commodities. It is involved in the French National Strategy against Imported Deforestation (SNDI), including in sharing its experience with the F&P brand for the possible development of a ‘Zero Deforestation’ label.

The EU says its new strategy on forests is a response to ‘persistence of the issue of global deforestation and increasing awareness of the link between deforestation and agricultural expansion, as well as repeated calls from the European Parliament and the Council to take action’.

“It recognizes that the EU, as a major importer of agricultural and forest commodities, is part of the problem, but can also be part of the solution,” it states. “The overall objective of the initiative is to develop a more coherent and comprehensive approach to the problem.”

Among the additional measures IDH urged the EU to consider in a position paper on the Communication [add link to IDH position paper] was use of competition compliance legislation to ‘promote innovation for sustainable supply chains’.

“Closer collaboration between DG Environment and DG Trade should also be explored,” it said. “How can trade agreements be set up in such a way that sustainable production and imports are promoted, and the requirements for imports are enforced?”

The organisation also suggests making it obligatory for EU member states to source only sustainable products, and it recommends partnering on sustainable supply chain development with other trading powers, mentioning India and China. It recommends too including sustainability data in trade statistics to inform policy development.

IDH also highlights the importance of including smallholders in sustainable trade strategy and supporting anti-deforestation measures at sub-national level.

It additionally questions the EU Communication’s recommendation to ‘disseminate information to help reduce demand for products whose supply chains may involve deforestation’. “Moving away from supply chains that have issues will not create impact, it merely displaces the problem,” states IDH. “All efforts that the EU undertakes should focus on creating an incentive for continuous improvement in production. Part of this incentive is increasing demand.”

STTC partner Interholco also contributed to consultation, which can be found here.

More background to the EU strategy can be found in its Roadmap document.