Europe must take responsibility for global forest protection | WWF

Europe must take responsibility for global forest protection

Posted on 05 November 2007
WWF 5th MCPFE poster

Warsaw, Poland – With the world's forests facing ever increasing threats from climate change and pressing demands such as bio-fuels, WWF is calling on Europe, as a major wood importer and consumer, to take more responsibility in tackling deforestation, especially in the tropics.

Europe must also develop comprehensive strategies for European forests, the global conservation organization says.

WWF is asking European forest ministers attending the 5th Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests in Europe (MCPFE) to make global deforestation a priority issue for action.

Global deforestation is currently at 13 million hectares a year, or 36 football fields a minute, and is the third biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, responsible for nearly 20% of these global warming gases.

“European countries are challenged twofold,” said Gerald Steindlegger, WWF's Global Forest Programme Manager. “They have to develop strategies that balance the most efficient use of European forests while maintaining critical socio-environmental and biodiversity values, and they must tackle climate change impacts. They also have to act to stop global deforestation.”

Although forests in Europe are growing, they face serious threats from climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change impacts, such as more frequent outbreaks of diseases and pests, can seriously degrade these forests. Reducing deforestation and forest degradation can go a long way towards mitigating climate change, according to WWF.

European governments must realize that the danger of climate change can only be faced through a combination of ambitious measures and policies on a global scale, WWF says. These measures include significant improvements in energy efficiency, reduced energy consumption, and a drastic reduction of fossil fuel use through substitution by low-carbon fuels and renewable energies.

WWF believes that governments should also realize that the uncontrolled production and trade of bio-energy can lead to further deforestation and degradation of forests worldwide, including Europe. They have to ensure that the production and imports of bio-energy are based on the principles and criteria of sustainable forest management and on other existing tools ensuring environmental and social responsibility, such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil's principles and criteria for sustainable palm oil production.

“We are inviting European countries to be our partners in stopping deforestation,” added Steindlegger. “If deforestation continues, the world and Europe will fail to tackle the planet's number one threat – global warming.”

European countries should also step up efforts in combating illegal logging and trade, and adopting a mandatory certification scheme for all bio-energy produced or consumed within the EU. In principle, WWF does not oppose the increased use of wood in Europe. However, the MCPFE has so far failed to develop a comprehensive approach that balances the most efficient use of European forests for various traditional and emerging industries and the maintenance of environmental and social services.

“Making sure that European forests are diverse ecosystems is not a selfish interest of the environmentalists,” said Steindlegger. “In fact, there is growing scientific evidence that diverse European forests will be more resilient to climate change. As a result, they will ensure future wood supplies and livelihoods.”

End Notes:

  1. WWF is one of two NGOs invited to address the MCPFE, which is attended by ministers from 46 European countries, the European Union and several international organizations. WWF has an observer status and has been involved in the MCPFE process since its beginning in 1990. WWF formulated amendments (changes) and additional action points to make the resolutions and declarations, to be adopted at the Warsaw conference, meaningful documents for the protection and sustainable use of forests in Europe and worldwide.
  2. WWF has an eight-point action plan to stop global deforestation and invites European forest ministers at the Warsaw conference to adopt this action plan. The eight points are:

    (i) Developing cross-sectoral national action plans. Acknowledge that forest policy, particularly sustainable forest management, alone cannot tackle deforestation. Raise awareness within individual European governments and start dialogues in order to develop cross-sectoral national action plans addressing ways to contribute to the global deforestation reduction objective as agreed at the sixth session of the United Nations Forest Forum in 2006.

    (ii) Inclusion of reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) in the post-2012 successor agreement to the Kyoto protocol. Indicate and provide support for recognizing REDD in a way that is transparent, credible, scientifically-sound and appropriately compensated within a post-2012 climate treaty. Engage in international political and financial climate-oriented fora to promote inclusion of REDD as a recognized, credible and compensated form of emissions reductions. This includes tracking remote sensing capabilities, monitoring and measurement mechanisms, environmental and social safeguards and carbon accounting.  

    (iii) Emissions reduction. Promote and ensure that all other national policies within Europe contribute to an overall domestic emission reduction of total greenhouse gas emissions by individual countries by at least 30% by 2020, based on 1990 emission levels.

    (iv) Developing and implementing responsible purchasing and consumption policies for wood and paper products, bio-energy, and food.

    (v) Defining responsible lending policies for key industry sectors and support financial institutions to implement responsible lending policies.

    (vi) Supporting and developing international funding programmes for sustainable financing of Protected Areas as committed within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)'s Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

    (vii) Promote credible certification schemes for wood and paper products, bio-energy, and other agricultural commodities such as palm-oil and soy.

    (viii) Combating illegal logging and related trade. Support European legislation to stop trade of illegal timber products on the European markets as a mechanism to complement and underpin Voluntary Partnership Agreements and Voluntary Private Sector Schemes. Support actions under the FLEGT Action Plan and other initiatives including overseas development aid to producer countries to improve law enforcement and regulatory capacity, develop legal verification systems, reform unworkable laws and improve forest management practices.

For further information:
Gerald Steindlegger
WWF Global Forests Programme
Tel: +43 676 83488216