Deforestation contributes considerably to climate change and biodiversity loss. In order to tackle these harmful effects on the environment, the Commission proposes to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and to reduce gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 % by 2020.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 October 2008 “Addressing the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss” [COM(2008) 645 final – Not published in the Official Journal].
Forests cover roughly 30% of the world's land area and offer major environmental benefits: they are amongst the most important habitats for biodiversity and provide crucial services by contributing to erosion prevention, water purification and the storage of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The livelihoods of 1.6 billion people in the world depend on forest resources.
Forests are under threat from deforestation. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), 13 million hectares of forests are lost every year. The main direct causes of forest destruction are changes in land use and badly controlled infrastructure development.
Proposed EU objectives
Protecting forests is an effective means of combating global warming. The action proposed by the European Union (EU) aims to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest and to reduce tropical deforestation by at least 50 % by 2020 compared to current levels. This Communication sets out the main lines of the action proposed by the European Commission, invites contributions from all stakeholders and sets in motion a series of initial actions that will provide the foundations for a global response to deforestation.
The Commission considers that the battle against deforestation must be fought on several levels:
- by strengthening forest governance and institutions at local and national level;
- by rewarding the value of the services provided by forests and making them more economically attractive than the benefits which can be derived from deforestation;
- by taking account of demand and the responsibility of consumers;
- by taking into account the work of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (EN) and international climate negotiations;
- by improving means for forest monitoring and assessment in order to obtain high-quality information to support decision-making.
Contribution of Community policies
Many European policies have indirect impacts on deforestation and the EU can help promote sustainable forest management, in particular through:
- Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT);
- work carried out under the framework of the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA);
- green public procurement policies;
- promoting eco-labelling and forest certification.
Furthermore, the Commission highlights the existing link between demand for agricultural commodities and land use. It stresses the need to increase agricultural production without further deforestation, which requires substantial investment, particularly in agricultural research to increase productivity in this sector in developing countries. Vigilance is also needed to ensure that an increase in demand for biofuels does not jeopardise efforts to protect forests. In the future, the Commission will assess the impact on deforestation of European and international initiatives and the consumption of imported food and non-food commodities into the Community, and will continue with the review on policy coherence for development.
Mechanisms and funding
Combating deforestation in developing countries requires additional funding (between 15 and 25 billion Euros per year will be needed to halve deforestation by 2020). A major portion of funding could come from proceeds from the auctioning of allowances within the Community’s emissions allowance trading scheme (ETS). Indeed, the proposed amendment of the scheme, presented in January 2008, provides for at least 20% of the auction proceeds to be devoted to climate objectives, deforestation in particular.
Furthermore, the Commission proposes creating a Global Forest Carbon Mechanism (GFCM). As part of this framework, a pilot phase could be envisaged to test the inclusion of “deforestation credits” (avoided deforestation credits) in carbon markets. Governments could use these credits to achieve the targets allocated to them for the period post-2012 concerning the reduction of emissions. The possibility of authorising companies to use “deforestation credits” to offset a portion of their emissions could be considered after 2020.
These proposals constitute the European Commission’s contribution towards tackling climate change, the protection of nature, and biodiversity. They should help to define the EU’s position in international climate negotiations. Furthermore, the Commission has been provoking discussion on development cooperation and the forestry sector and forestry management within the Union’s borders for several years. This Communication is accompanied by a proposal for a Regulation which aims to minimise the risk of illegally harvested timber and timber products entering the Community market (see related acts).