The European Union (EU) has moved closer to imposing regulation on companies importing commodities such as palm oil, soy and timber, in a bid to protect the world’s forests.
Proposals issued earlier this week by the European Commission (EC) include stepping up cooperation with stakeholders and EU member states, the promotion of sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and targeted research and data collection.
The EC also announced an assessment of possible new regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and forest degradation.
The EC’s first vice-president Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for sustainable development, said: “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. The EU is prepared to play a leadership role in this area in the next five years, and beyond.”
The EC has set out five priorities in its objective of protecting and improving the health of the world’s forests:
- Reducing the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains in the EU;
- Working in partnership with producing countries to reduce pressures on forests and to “deforest-proof” EU development cooperation;
- Strengthening international cooperation to halt deforestation and forest degradation, and encouraging forest restoration;
- Redirecting finance to support more sustainable land-use practices;
- Supporting the availability of, quality of, and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains and encouraging research and innovation.
Actions to reduce EU consumption and encourage the use of products from deforestation-free supply chains include setting up a new multi-stakeholder platform on deforestation, forest degradation and forest generation, which will bring together a broad range of relevant stakeholders.
The Commission will also encourage stronger certification schemes for deforestation-free products and assess possible demand-side legislative measures and other incentives.
The EC said it will work closely with partner countries to help them to reduce pressures on their forests and will ensure that EU policies do not contribute to deforestation and forest degradation. It will help partners develop and implement comprehensive national frameworks on forests, enhancing the sustainable use of forests, and increasing the sustainability of forest-based value chains.
The Commission will also work with international bodies such as the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the G7 leading economies and the G20.
Trade agreements negotiated by the EU will need to contribute to the responsible and sustainable management of global supply chains and encourage trade of agricultural and forest-based products not causing deforestation or forest degradation. The Commission will also develop incentive mechanisms for smallholder farmers to maintain and enhance ecosystem services and embrace sustainable agriculture and forest management.
For better information and access to information on forests and supply chains, the Commission proposes to set up an EU Observatory on Deforestation and Forest Degradation, to monitor and measure changes in the world's forest cover and associated drivers. This resource will give public bodies, consumers and businesses better access to information about supply chains, encouraging them to become more sustainable. The Commission will also explore the possibility of strengthening the use of the Copernicus satellite system for forest monitoring.
The Commission will also focus on redirecting public and private finance to help to create incentives for sustainable forest management and sustainable forest-based value chains, and for conservation of existing and sustainable regeneration of additional forest cover. Together with the member states, the EC will assess mechanisms with the potential to foster green finance for forests and further leverage and increase funding.
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