EU forest bail out falls short

Feature story - 17 October, 2008
Forest destruction is costing the global economy US $2 to $5 trillion per year — more than Wall Street has lost since the start of the current financial crisis. After stalling for years, the European Commission has finally come out with a proposal for illegal logging legislation and recommendations to tackle deforestation. Unfortunately, the law doesn’t do enough to address deforestation and illegal logging or what it is really costing us.

If the last ancient forests and all the life that’s in them don’t get a little love from the Environmental Ministers they will soon be wiped out.

Over the last few months, more than 125,000 of you wrote to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, asking him to show a little Forest Love and put an end to the EU's massive contribution to deforestation and illegal logging. Your message got to the EU Commission, their response just doesn't go far enough.

EU forest footprint not getting any smaller

The proposed law won't keep illegal timber out of the EU, or help you figure out if the flat-pack wardrobe you bought last Saturday is the result of forest crime. There's no plan to make sure that businesses prove their wood is legal or to make sure that forest criminals bringing in illegal timber pay for their crimes. And while the commission recognises the damage being caused by the demand for agricultural commodities (such as soy beans, cattle and palm oil) as a major contributor to deforestation, it doesn't suggest a plan to eliminate the problem.  It commits only to more studies and exploring policy options.

The destruction of the world's rainforests to make way for things like more palm oil plantations is driving climate change and pushing species such as the orang-utan, to the brink of extinction. Every time the rainforest is trashed, huge amounts of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. The destruction of our rainforests accounts for a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions - that's more than all the planes, trains and cars in the world.

Baby Steps

But it's not all bad news, there are parts of the recommendations that get forest protection right. We are happy to see a recommendation for the creation of a fund for forest protection under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The plan itself only provides a fraction of the money needed for the fund to succeed, so now the Commission needs to figure out how to make sure the fund can succeed.

The Commission also rightly opposes forest offset credits for the next decade. If forest credits were approved, they could allow the energy sector to buy its way out of necessary reforms and emission cuts. The EU Commission is taking a step in the right direction by rejecting forest credits in the carbon markets.

What's next?

European environment ministers are expected to discuss deforestation at their Council on 4 December and the first ministerial debate on the timber legislative proposal is expected to take place at the agriculture Council on 17-19 December.  

If the last ancient forests and all the life that's in them don't get a little love from the Environmental Ministers they will soon be wiped out. If the EU is serious about protecting forests and keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, then Parliament and Council need to step it up on the Commission proposals.  We need a strong timber law and new economic incentives and financial resources to put an end to deforestation and illegal logging.


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