On 23 July 2019, the European Commission adopted an EU Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests .
The Communication has the objective of protecting and improving the health of existing forests, especially primary forests, and significantly increasing sustainable, biodiverse forest coverage worldwide. It sets out five priorities:
Annex I to the Communication proposes actions to be implemented by the European Commission to meet these priorities, while Annex II lists actions recommended to EU national, regional and local authorities, industry and civil society.
Actions proposed also aim at creating a multi-stakeholder platform and an EU Observatory on deforestation and forest degradation, at exploring possible legislative measures, and at reinforcing the implementation of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, focusing on fighting illegal logging.
A Staff Working Document, accompanying the Communication, presents a synopsis report of consultation results and feedback.
Since 2003, action under the EU FLEGT Action Plan has fought illegal logging and associated trade. Working with partner countries to improve forest governance and capacity building are key components of the Action Plan. One of its central elements, the EU Timber Regulation, obliges operators who place timber and timber products on the EU market to exert due diligence to minimise the risk of importing illegally harvested timber. It also promotes dialogue and cooperation with other major markets. The 2016 evaluation of the EU FLEGT Action Plan concluded that it continues to be a relevant response to the challenge of illegal logging, effective in terms of raising awareness, contributing to forest governance globally, and that it has helped reduce demand for illegal timber in the EU. As announced in the EU Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, building on the findings of the evaluation, the Commission services and the Member States have agreed a FLEGT Work Plan 2018-2022, a paper of the Commission services and Member States experts, which is guiding the work for the coming years.
One of the commitments in the EU Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests was to ‘establish a Platform for multi-stakeholder and Member State dialogue on deforestation, forest degradation and on sustainably increasing world’s forest cover to provide a forum to foster exchanges with and among stakeholders in order to build alliances, push for and share commitments to significantly reduce deforestation, and share experiences and information’.
Given the synergies between the work on the EU Timber Regulation and the FLEGT Regulation, and the follow-up work on the Communication, the Commission has decided to expand the scope of the existing “Expert Group on the EU Timber Regulation and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation” to serve both as forum for the interaction with EU Member States’ authorities and as the multi-stakeholder platform to be established pursuant to the Communication. The group has therefore been renamed “Commission Expert Group / Multi-Stakeholder Platform on Protecting and Restoring the World's Forests, including the EU Timber Regulation and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation”. The work of this new group has been divided in two strands: the implementation of the EU Timber Regulation and the FLEGT Regulation, and the follow-up to the “Commission Communication on Protecting and Restoring the World’s Forests”, and separate meetings are being organised.
The new setting includes Type D members (Member States’ competent authorities) and Type C members (organisations representing industry, farmers, forest/land owners, trade, civil society and research institutes, based in the EU or in third countries, which have been selected through a call for applications). Here is the list of member organisations for the work on the implementation of the EU Timber Regulation and the FLEGT Regulation and the list of member organisations for the work on the follow-up to the “Commission Communication on Protecting and Restoring the World’s Forests”.
Process towards the adoption of the Communication
On 14 December, the European Commission published a Roadmap informing citizens on a possible EU initiative on Stepping up EU Action against Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The Roadmap sets out the context and objectives of the initiative and the foreseen consultation, and was open for feedback until 15 January 2019 via this page.
The initiative is a response to the persistence of the issue of global deforestation and the increasing awareness of the link between deforestation and agricultural expansion, as well as repeated calls from the European Parliament and the Council to take action. It recognizes that the EU, as a major importer of agricultural and forest commodities, is part of the problem but can also be part of the solution. The overall objective of the initiative is to step up EU action against tropical deforestation and forest degradation by developing a more coherent and comprehensive approach to the problem. More details can be found in the above Roadmap.
On 14 January 2019, the European Commission launched a public consultation on Stepping up EU Action against Deforestation and Forest Degradation. It was available online until 25 February 2019 on the Commission's Consultations webpage. This questionnaire gave all stakeholders, regardless of their level of expertise, the opportunity to share their views on the issue, to identify the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and to indicate EU policy areas and potential interventions that they consider as having the biggest potential to contribute to addressing deforestation and forest degradation.
The 995 provided contributions are available in the attached Excel table. The results have been summarized in the attached Summary Report. A more comprehensive summary report is available here. Some of the respondents provided additional input, which is available by clicking on the hyperlinks in the table.
Directorate F “Global Sustainable Development”
Unit F3 “Multilateral Environmental Cooperation”