EU action to protect the world’s forests – Council adopts conclusions

The Council today adopted conclusions which provide political guidance on protecting and restoring the world’s forests. Member states welcome the Commission’s communication on stepping up EU action in this area.

Forests have a key role in climate action given their power to absorb greenhouse gases. Forests host the majority of Earth’s biodiversity. Population growth and growing demand for food leads to forests being turned into agricultural land, and to an increased focus on agricultural productivity.

The Council and the member states are deeply concerned that current policies and action at the global level on the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests are insufficient to halt deforestation. They agree that enhanced EU action is needed, and encourage the Commission to urgently prioritise and implement the actions set out in its communication, together with the member states, industry, organisations and institutions, civil society and partner countries as part of the European Green Deal.

In order to reduce the EU’s consumption footprint on land, the Council and the member states request that the Commission fast-track an assessment of new demand-side regulatory and non-regulatory measures and produces proposals to this end. These measures include the raising of consumers awareness, commitments from industry and cooperation with producing countries.   

The Council and its member states are committed to strengthening international cooperation and working with partner countries to promote action against deforestation and forest degradation, especially from agricultural production in line with the three pillars of sustainable development. A partnership approach is recommended for cooperation with producing countries.

They also recommend proposing, for all new relevant comprehensive EU trade agreements, specific provisions on sustainable forest management and sustainable and deforestation-free agricultural commodities.

Redirecting finance to sustainable land-use practices is also a goal worth pursuing. The Council and the member states highlight the importance of mobilising adequate funding from all relevant sources to step up action to protect and restore the world’s forests.

In the context of supporting research and innovation, the Council and its member states welcome the objective to set up an EU observatory and invite the Commission to cooperate with the global forest data systems that already exist. They also invite the Commission to consider the feasibility of an early alert mechanism to notify consumers, public authorities and companies sourcing commodities from areas at risk of deforestation.

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