The role of forests, the plight of forests
The world faces intertwined crises of climate change and the destruction of nature that are fundamentally undermining our universal wellbeing and causing a new mass extinction of species that share the planet with us. Fundamental to reversing both these crises is the protection and restoration of the world’s natural forests.
One of the most important scientific documents ever published, the IPCC’s 1.5 report, points out increasing carbon absorption from the atmosphere is essential to a livable climate future: “All pathways that limit global warming to 1.5°C with limited or no overshoot project the use of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on the order of 100–1000 GtCO2 over the 21st century.” In short, along with reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, we must increase the uptake of carbon in our terrestrial systems.
Natural forests can and must play a role in removing carbon from the atmosphere. However, forests and the natural carbon stocks and sinks they provide continue to be degraded and destroyed by out of control levels of logging for paper, wood products and fuel. We must heed the warning of the IPCC’s “Land” report that preserving existing ecosystem carbon stocks is critical to tackle the climate crisis:
“While some response options have immediate impacts, others take decades to deliver measurable results. Examples of response options with immediate impacts include the conservation of high-carbon ecosystems such as peatlands, wetlands, rangelands, mangroves and forests. Examples that provide multiple ecosystem services and functions, but take more time to deliver, include afforestation and reforestation as well as the restoration of high-carbon ecosystems, agroforestry, and the reclamation of degraded soils”
In the EU, forest policy is at a crossroads. The path we choose will determine whether we use science and common sense to underpin our efforts to save our future, or whether vested logging interests will continue to sabotage our path forward. The EU has adopted a net climate neutral goal by mid-century, as called for in the Paris Agreement, and EU policies including the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 are beginning to acknowledge the need for better protection of forests. On 16 September 2020 the European Parliament adopted a promising report on the EU’s role in protecting and restoring the world’s forests. This report recognises “that the protection of native forests provides an outstanding climate mitigation benefit, deriving from the size and longevity of their ecosystem carbon stocks”
Meanwhile, however, the conservation status of EU’s forest habitats continue to be largely unfavourable due to increased logging and ineffective protection (EEA, State of Nature in the EU report). The EU Renewable Energy Directive continues to promote exploiting forests for fuel – inaccurately claiming the use of forest wood as ‘zero emissions’ fuel. EU member state projections on the near-term future of their forests show that far from charting a path to “net zero” emissions by 2050, forests in the EU will be absorbing less carbon than ever before. The forestry lobby also pushes for a post 2020 EU Forest Strategy that does not recognise the importance of strict protection and the need to drastically decrease the pressure from logging forests in Europe and beyond.
The Forest Defenders Alliance
We can all see that change is not happening fast enough to save what is being lost. The EU needs nature and climate policies that truly put forests first to ensure a livable climate and thriving natural world for our shared future wellbeing. And for the first time, European policies are acknowledging the critical need to restore and protect forests as a home for nature and a buffer for climate. With the advent of the European Green Deal, there is an opportunity to achieve policies that preserve the EU’s natural heritage for future generations.
The purpose of this website is thus four-fold:
- To advance a vision for an EU forest policy that would genuinely address the biodiversity and climate crises;
- to shine a spotlight on the “bad apple” spoiling the EU’s renewable energy policy – the promotion of burning forests for renewable energy which is bad for climate, health, and biodiversity;
- to inform the public and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) about opportunities to influence EU policy on forests and climate, and provide science-based resources;
- and to draw attention to the work of NGO’s that fight to protect forests in the EU and worldwide.