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The climate is used as a pretext to increase forest harvests. Photo: Pixabay

Protect the Forest gives feedback on European Commission’s initiative to step up EU action against deforestation and forest degradation. The NGO calls on the EU to prevent forest companies from logging high conservation value forests and to establish large-scale tree plantations.

The growing European demand of biofuel crops increase the need of agricultural land, converting valuable habitats and displacing other crops, with serious impacts on food security and significant greenhouse gas emissions from land use change as a result.

Sweden and Finland promote their commercial forestry as sustainable and export it as a good example to producer countries in the tropics which lead to forest degradation. The Swedish and Finnish forest industries are, among others, strong lobbyists and use the climate as a pretext to increase their forest harvest, production and economic rates. By endorsing a so called bioeconomy, natural forests are systematically clear-cut and replaced by even-aged tree plantations, poor of species, to acquire alleged sustainable wood products and bioenergy.

Protect the Forest calls on the European Commission to, among other things:

• Stop the global destruction and felling of primary and natural forests. Protect the remaining peatland forests, old-growth forests and other high conservation value forests (HCVFs).

• Develop a strong legislation to ensure that imported agricultural and forest commodities to the EU are produced without causing deforestation and violating indigenous peoples’ rights.

• Immediately impose trade sanctions on any commodity being produced in areas where indigenous groups and territories are under threat from increased deforestation and genocide. Brazil is at the moment a high-risk country. Boycott products from conflict areas, such as soy from the mid-eastern part of Brazil.

• Immediately stop subsidizing forest and farming activities that contribute to deforestation and the cutting of natural forest. Restrict the trade of meat, soy and palm oil.

• Ban the import and use of palm oil, palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) and soy oil in transport fuels in the EU.

• Introduce a tax on commodities based on their ecological footprint.

• Specify definitions and clear terms for so called ‘sustainable’ forestry and agricultural practices, which consider socio-ecological economics and policies that operate within the planetary boundaries. Today, arbitrary and vague definitions of the word ‘sustainable’ mislead and promote clear-cutting practices and increased expansion of tree plantations, which harm the biodiversity, offset greenhouse gases, and damage soil and water resources.

• Impose sanctions on EU companies that conduct industrial-scale commercial logging operations in HCVFs and establish monoculture tree plantations.

• Support the creation and implementation of the 200 million hectare Andes-Amazon-Atlantic Corridor to safeguard biodiversity and people, proposed by Amazonian indigenous leaders at the CBD COP14 in Egypt 2018.

• Promote forest restoration by favoring natural regeneration & natural forests, not monocultures.

• Support the use of nature-oriented and continuous cover forestry in forest areas without high conservation values in order to cause less detrimental effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and to minimize the release of greenhouse gases from the forest.

• Introduce incentives to reduce the consumption of paper, forest products and other natural resources as well as reducing energy consumption and use. Promote energy efficiency and recycling.

The economic value of intact forests is far greater than the value of commodities especially in terms of providing functional ecosystem services in the long run. The EU supply chains must be free from deforestation and human rights violations. Voluntary commitments are not sufficient enough. The planetary boundaries for biodiversity and climate are already exceeded and catastrophic consequences are ahead if stringent biodiversity and climate mitigation measures are not urgently taken.

Read Protect the Forest's feedback on the EU-kommissionens plan here (short version). Read a longer version of the feedback here.