Kate Evans, CIFOR

Stepping up EU action on deforestation and forest degradation

Publication / 28 Feb 2019

Global Canopy and SEI welcome the European Union’s (EU) stated intention to develop a more coherent and comprehensive approach to the problem of tropical deforestation and forest degradation, but is disappointed by the limited scope of the proposals put forward. The EU’s own Feasibility study on options to step up EU action against deforestation is clear that the EU will have little impact if it doesn’t consider regulatory action.

The EU has been a leader in addressing illegality in timber imports through the EU Timber Regulation and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements. More broadly, the EU has signed up to high-level goals to address deforestation, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12 and 15), and action to address tropical deforestation is also essential to meet the overall ambition set out in the Paris Agreement.

The EU has also endorsed the New York Declaration of Forests which calls on governments to “support and help meet the private-sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper and beef products by no later than 2020” (Goal 2).

Six EU member states are also signatories to the Amsterdam Declarations “Towards eliminating deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains with European countries” and “In Support of a Fully Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain by 2020”.

Yet as 2020 approaches, it is clear that while some progress has been made, these commitments will not be delivered. Despite regional differences and efforts by governments, conservationists, and companies to stem the losses, the overall rate of commodity-driven deforestation has not declined since 2001.

This illustrates the need for the EU to go beyond its stated intention to develop more coherent and comprehensive approach to the problem, and to explore a comprehensive framework that addresses the interlinked issues of EU consumption, trade and production in forest-risk areas, including regulation where required.

Such measures must necessarily include action to address deforestation in trade agreements. Addressing the illegal trade in forest-risk commodities is of course essential, but much legal trade is also strongly associated with deforestation activity. The EU is an important trading bloc, and as such can have an influential role in ensuring that trade agreements do not directly or indirectly incentivise deforestation (through tariff-free access to forest-risk commodities for example).

The EU must recognise the important influence it holds over the financial sector who are funding deforestation through their loans and investments for agricultural commodities.

Banner photo: Patchwork of forest and cattle pasture, Brazil, by CIFOR via flickr, creative commons licence

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