EU steps up action to protect the world’s forests

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The European Commission has outlined new set of actions to protect and restore the world’s forests, which host 80% of biodiversity on land, support the livelihoods of around a quarter of the world’s population, and are vital to our efforts to fight climate change.

The initiatives address both the supply and demand side of the issue.  It introduces measures for enhanced international cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, promotion of sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and targeted research and data collection. In addition, the new actions include an assessment of possible new regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and forest degradation.

“Forests are the green lungs of our planet, and we must care for them in the same way we care for our own lungs. We will not meet our climate targets without protecting the world’s forests. The EU does not host the world’s major primary forests on its territory, but our actions as individuals and our policy choices have a major impact. Today we send an important signal to our citizens and to our partners around the world that the EU is prepared to play a leadership role in this area in the next five years, and beyond” said Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President, who is also responsible for sustainable development.

“We stand ready to work with partner countries to protect and sustainably manage forests across the world. This is about food security, water, climate change, resilience and peace. It’s about building a more sustainable and inclusive world.” said Neven Mimica, Commissioner for International Development.

The ambitious European approach is a response to the continued widespread destruction of the world’s forests; an area of 1.3 million square kilometres was lost between 1990 and 2016, equivalent to approximately 800 football fields every hour. The main drivers of this deforestation are demand for food, feed, biofuel, timber and other commodities.

Greenhouse gas emissions linked to deforestation are the second biggest cause of climate change, so protecting forests is a significant part of our responsibility to meet the commitments under the Paris Agreement. From an economic and social perspective, forests support the livelihoods of around 25 % of the global population, and they also embody irreplaceable cultural, societal and spiritual values.

The Commission has set out five priorities for protecting and improving the health of existing forests, including:

  • Reduce the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains in the EU;
  • Work in partnership with producing countries to reduce pressures on forests and to “deforest-proof” EU development cooperation;
  • Strengthen international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation, and encourage forest restoration;
  • Redirect finance to support more sustainable land-use practices;
  • Support the availability of, quality of, and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains, and support research and innovation.

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