Despite promises, Commission remains silent on EU plans to tackle deforestation

Brussels – A long awaited European Commission study, released late on Friday, lays out policy options for the EU to tackle the impact on global deforestation caused by the trade in crop and animal products like beef, soy and palm oil. [1] The study also points out the EU’s high level of meat consumption, its dependence on imported animal feed, and the inadequacy of controls on finance and investments flows as drivers of deforestation.

The EU’s failure to act to reduce its forest footprint is jeopardising chances of avoiding the worst impacts of climate change, warned Greenpeace. Although the Commissionhad promised to take a decision on a deforestation action plan, it has yet to announce how it intends to follow up on this study and what action, if any, will be taken.

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sébastien Risso said: “Europe has ignored its role in global deforestation for long enough. The EU must act swiftly to ensure that the food we eat, the energy we use and the banks we save in are no longer destroying forests, fuelling climate change and trampling on indigenous peoples’ rights. It’s time for the Commission to break its silence and come forward with strong rules and policies to curb the EU’s forest footprint and support global efforts to halt deforestation.”

European governments and the European Parliamenthave repeatedly called on the Commission to develop an action plan on deforestation and to deliver on the goal of ending deforestation by 2020. [2] On 5 March, again, at the last Environment Council, five EU countries called on the Commission to “propose an ambitious strategy to combat imported deforestation”. [3]

The Commission study released today recognises that “the EU is clearly part of the problem of global deforestation”, but can be part of the solution. It sets out a series of policy measures that could form the basis of an EU action plan on deforestation. In particular, these include:

  • new legislative measures to ensure sustainable and deforestation-free agricultural supply chains, and oblige financial institutions to take action to eliminate the risk of deforestation resulting from financial investments;
  • initiatives to encourage lower consumption of meat and dedicated actions to reduce imports of feed, such as soy, for the EU livestock sector by increasing vegetable protein production in Europe;
  • a complete phase-out of crop-based biofuels by 2030 under the renewable energy directive;
  • financial and technical assistance to help countries whose forests are at risk to meet their international commitments on forest protection, including by supporting sustainable agricultural production and supply chains, strengthening forest protection, securing the rights of indigenous and forest communities, and improving forest and land use planning, governance and law enforcement.

Agricultural expansion is responsible for 80 per cent of global deforestation, with devastating effects on the planet’s climate and biodiversity. Deforestation is also associated with violence and human rights abuses. Almost 40 percent of the land used to satisfyEU consumption is situated outside Europe.

Forests are essential for life on the planet. They guard against the worst effects of climate change byabsorbing and storing massive amounts of carbon dioxide, are home to a vast diversity of plants, animals and insects, and provide shelter and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people.

The Commission also released a study on the environmental impact of palm oil consumption and on existing sustainability standards. [4] In 2017, the EU imported over 3,410,000 tonnes of palm oil from Indonesia and over 1,781,000 tonnes from Malaysia. The oil palm and wood fibre sector is the biggest driver of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. In Indonesia alone around 24 million hectares of rainforest was destroyed between 1990 and 2015 – an area almost the size of the UK.

Notes:

[1] Commission study on the feasibility of options to step up EU action to combat deforestation and forest degradation https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-eu-unit-stateless/2018/08/feasibility_study_deforestation_kh0418199enn_main_report.pdf

[2] World leaders recognised the crucialrole of forests in climate change mitigation in the 2015 Paris climate agreement andpledged to halt deforestation by 2020. In 2013, European governments and the European Parliament asked the Commission to develop policy proposals and consider the development of an action plan on deforestation and forest degradation in the context of the 7th EU environment action programme. Several European governments (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Norway) have reiterated their call for action in theAmsterdam Declaration. Members of the European Parliament also called for an EU action plan, including concrete regulatory measures to ensure that no supply chains and financial transactions linked to the EU result in deforestation and forest degradation, most recently, in theParliament’s resolution on palm oil and deforestation.

[3] Note from the French, Danish, German, Netherlands and United Kingdom delegations on “combating imported deforestation”, discussed at the Environment Council on 5 March 2018. http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-6528-2018-INIT/en/pdf

[4] Commission study on the environmental impact of palm oil consumption and on existing sustainability standards https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-eu-unit-stateless/2018/08/palm_oil_study_kh0218208enn_new.pdf

Contacts:

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sébastien Risso: +32 (0)496 127009, sebastien.risso@greenpeace.org

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, pressdesk.eu@greenpeace.org

 

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