The Council of the EU has adopted conclusions promoting forest conservation and addressing deforestation around the world.
In addition to the benefits they offer for biodiversity and ecosystem preservation, forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing harmful carbon from the air and releasing oxygen. The Council and its Member States have expressed concern over the efficacy of current policies aimed at combating deforestation at the global level; and urged the European Commission to take immediate action to implement its proposals for the conservation of forest ecosystems. The Council has also called on its Member States to assess their own use of land and forest management practices, with particular reference to the fact that the majority of deforestation – around 80% worldwide – is attributed to the removal of forests for agricultural expansion.
In its conclusions on the promotion of forest conservation, the Council has issued a number of recommendations for the European Commission and EU Member States, including:
- All relevant new EU trade agreements to include provisions on sustainable forest management;
- ‘Fast tracking’ a Commission assessment of regulatory and non-regulatory measures aimed at addressing deforestation;
- Mobilising additional funding to promote sustainable land use;
- Shoring up international co-operation on forest conservation mechanisms, particularly within the agricultural sector; and
- Establishing an EU observatory to facilitate the sharing and analysis of forest data.
Andreas Baumüller, Head of Natural Resources at the World Wide Fund For Nature’s (WWF) European Policy Office, said: “It is good to see that the EU Member States support tackling deforestation, but asking for a ‘fast track assessment’ of potential legislation is not enough: it’s time to stop assessing and take concrete next steps. Member States should request that the European Commission come forward with a proposal for a new law. Only new legislative power will reduce EU’s consumption footprint and stop deforestation and forest degradation.”