To contrast deforestation, the European Union is developing a new draft of regulation to assure the import of deforestation-free products. Europe consumes around 10% of all commodities that are driving deforestation. Recently, more than 50 scientists have warned MEPs that a high-level move to water down EU legislation on deforestation could undermine Europe’s net zero emissions plans.
European environment ministers rewrote a draft regulation to limit its impact on a mere 2% of the European forest area. The proposal redefine “forest degradation” as the replacement of primary forest by plantations, limiting the impact of the legislation to just 3.1 million hectares of primary forest compared to 159 million hectares of forest.
According to the scientists, the proposal could “hinder the legislation from tackling forest loss on EU soil and create a perception that the EU is evading its own forest-related responsibilities – instead throwing the burden on to developing countries in the tropics”, the scientists said.
Any exclusion of forest degradation from the law would “undermine the EU’s professed desire to see Europe become the first climate neutral continent by 2050” and “gravely weaken” EU efforts to bolster global conservation, add the letter, reported by The Guardian.
The new definition of forest degradation would not be recognised by scientists or forest-dependent peoples. “It ignores the considerable damage that continues to be inflicted on forests through unsustainable logging, deliberate burning, and mining, as well as road construction that fragments forests thereby facilitating further degradation,” said Jaboury Ghazoul from ETH Zurich. As it neglects the rights of forest-dependent communities, “the definition is not only untenable, it is also unjust”, he said.
Forest degradation accounts for an estimated 25% of the total emissions from tropical forest damage and is estimated to release about 2.5bn tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – roughly 5% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
The European Commission’s original proposal defined forest degradation as resulting from unsustainable operations that reduced the long-term biological complexity and productivity of forest ecosystems, in line with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization definition.
But one Swedish lobby paper seen by the Guardian describes such definitions as “detailed and unclear” and argues they would impose “excessive costs which cannot be justified” on small businesses.