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To combat deforestation local governments call for more ambition and sustainable forestry  

The European Committee of the Regions adopted, almost unanimously, at the July plenary session, an opinion drafted by Roby Biwer entitled 'Stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world's forests'. The rapporteur of the CoR opinion calls for a strong EU certification scheme and information system that guarantee sustainable forestry products and  transparent supply chains from non-EU countries.

"Forests are the green lungs of our planet and we must care for them in the same way we care for our own lungs. We will not meet our climate and biodiversity targets without stepping up efforts to protect and restore the world's forests. We call on the Commission to be more ambitious. Encouraging is not enough. We need to guarantee the consumption of products from non-EU sustainable forestry supply chains in the EU, as the world's major primary forests are located outside the EU. Preventing forest loss can have multiple benefits for people and ecosystems including biodiversity conservation, emissions reduction by carbon absorption and provision of ecosystems services that can drive sustainable growth. Cities and regions will play a key role in stepping up these efforts" said Roby Biwer (LU/PES), Member of Bettembourg Municipal Council, Luxembourg.

The rapporteur insists on how the imports of our businesses, our actions as individuals, and our policy choices have a major impact on forests. Public procurement can be an important way to leverage the private sector to ensure more sustainable product supply contracts. The introduction, within Directive 2014/24/EU on public procurement, of a ban on public purchases of products resulting from deforestation can produce relevant positive impacts on the promotion of deforestation-free products.

The opinion calls for policy coherence to align the efforts, objectives and outcomes produced by the different EU policies in a comprehensive sustainability strategy. This includes the European Green Deal with its two new strategies on Biodiversity and From Farm to Fork, the new Common Agricultural Policy, and all the EU international commitments, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, EU trade policy

"When the EU negotiates trade agreements, their chapters on sustainable forest management and the fight against deforestation must be strengthened. If our partners do not meet their environmental and climate commitments, we shall be ready to react! The dramatic Amazon deforestation in Brazil shows that the EU-Mercosur trade agreement has failed up until now in this regard" said Roby Biwer.

Population growth and growing demand for food are leading to forests being turned into agricultural land, and to an increased focus on agricultural productivity. Word' forests are under threat - a forest area of 1.3 million square kilometres was lost between 1990 and 2016. This is the equivalent of approximately 800 football fields of forest lost every hour.

The opinion recalls the importance of reinforcing information and educational actions to ensure that consumers are aware of the economic, social and environmental impact of their food-consumption habits. For that same purpose, local governments must also promote healthier and ethically correct diets, stressing both the nutritive and socio-economic benefits of plant-based intakes with high levels of fruits and vegetables that are certified as resulting from deforestation-free supply chains.

The opinion also calls on the European Commission to consider establishing a European Forestry Agency in light of the importance of protecting and restoring the world's forests.

The opinion was adopted alongside a high-level debate on the European Green Deal, the EU's growth strategy to reach climate-neutrality by 2050. On 15 June, the CoR launched the working group 'Green Deal Going Local'. Composed of 13 local and regional elected representatives, it aims at converting the Green Deal into concrete projects and direct funding for cities and regions to deliver the sustainable transition on the ground.  


The European Union has close to 182 million hectares of forests, covering 43% of its land area, making it one of the most forest-rich regions in the world. Agricultural expansion continues to be the main driver of deforestation, forest degradation and the associated loss of forest biodiversity. These and other insights can be found in the report
'The State of the World's Forests. 2020'.

Since 1990, it is estimated that 420 million hectares of forest across the world have been lost through conversion to other land uses, although the rate of deforestation has decreased over the past three decades. Between 2015 and 2020, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s.

Click here to read a recent interview with Roby Biwer.

Wioletta Wojewodzka
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