EU move to curb deforestation earns support

Oil palm cultivation in countries such as Malaysia have oftem come at the cost of deforestation.

The European Union’s proposals for new measures to combat tropical deforestation – in particular to control forest conversion to agriculture – have been backed by the timber sector, non-government organisations and other stakeholders. Some actually urge it to go further than the steps put forward.

An EU roadmap was put out for feedback at the start of 2019. The goal is to develop “an integrated EU approach” to combat deforestation, protect forests and promote sustainable supply chains.

“Deforestation is a major global problem, leading to biodiversity loss, climate change and poverty,” said the roadmap summary. “The causes are many and complex, though increased production of commodities, such as soy, beef, palm oil, coffee, and cocoa, drives almost 80% of all deforestation.”

Possible EU actions include building partnerships with producer countries to support uptake of sustainable agriculture and forestry and reduce pressure on forests. Another goal is to back creation of sustainable and transparent supply chains for sustainably produced commodities.

New partnerships with other major consumer countries are proposed, plus steps to better implement and communicate existing EU actions on deforestation.

Suggested measures

Mr John Hontelez for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) urged two actions from the EU. The first was to put pressure on EU importing companies to work with credible certification schemes that incorporate robust environmental and social requirements and have effective verification tools.

“This pressure can start with public procurement requirements,” he said. The FSC also recommended fiscal incentives for adoption of certification, including via harvesting, concession or export fees, or VAT.

In response to the wider consultation from January through February, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said current EU anti-deforestation policies were inadequate and, among other tropical forest products, it cited wooden goods as a key risk commodity where action was needed to curb forest degradation impacts.

It also stressed that any EU action plan should be underpinned with legislation. That included in terms of ensuring transparency to identify investment linked to deforestation.

The Environmental Investigation Agency also welcomed the roadmap and consultation, but expressed concern at its statement that any initiative would be “non-legislative”. Fellow NGO Fern picked up the same theme.

The UK Timber Trade Federation backed the EU proposals and the fact that it concentrated on agricultural commodities, notably palm oil and soya the “real forest risk commodities”.

The European woodworking industries confederation, CEI-Bois, also backed the EU’s focus on non-forest products. Following its consultation, the EU said it would issue a communication on its deforestation proposals in the second half of 2019.

Courtesy: European Sustainable Tropical Timber Coalition.

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