Deforestation in Europe: The EU's Action Plan

    Deforestation in Europe: The EU's Action Plan

    Forests cover around one-third of all land on Earth, providing vital services to all living beings including clean air, water and food. They also serve as shields against extreme weather conditions, like storms and floods. Yet, forests are being cut down, endangering biodiversity worldwide.

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    06/05/2024Of Navodi Kuruppu
    06/05/2024Of Navodi Kuruppu


    Deforestation is one of the biggest threats to wildlife, the natural world, and the climate. 10,000 years ago, 57% of the world’s habitable land was covered by forest, equivalent to 6 billion hectares. Since then, 2 billion hectares have been lost, which equals to an area twice the size of the United States. Deforestation consists of the intentional chopping down or removal of trees or forested lands. These removals are carried out to satisfy anthropogenic needs including agriculture, logging for timber, mining and infrastructure projects like road or dam-building. Fire is also a major threat, usually used to clear land for farming. Deforestation is not a new problem, but it has accelerated over the last century to satisfy the demands of these industries. Our World in Data suggests that in just over 100 years the world lost as much forest as it had in the previous 9,000 years.

    Wood stacked with spacers

    Effects on Biodiversity

    Deforestation has many negative consequences, particularly the loss of biodiversity. Forests are home to a vast array of diverse tree, amphibian, bird, and mammal species. They are habitats for approximately 80% of the world’s land-based species. When these forests are destroyed, animals lose their habitats and are often unable to survive in the small fragments of forests left behind. Consequently, the destruction and fragmentation of forests is the biggest driver of extinction across the world. Forest loss does not simply mean all biodiversity is wiped out, but it often results in a significant change in the mix of species that live there. In this context, some species will prosper while others will be lost. Also, with fewer species, the resilience of the entire food chain is compromised.

    Reindeer on green grass

    Deforestation in Europe

    Europe’s forests account for around 38% of its land surface area, with the majority of them being managed for the production of timber" target="_blank">timber. Data suggests that in recent years harvesting has been the biggest driver of deforestation in Europe. Other drivers include natural disruptions like wildfires and pests, exacerbated by climate change. Europe’s total tree cover increased slightly over the last two decades, with a net gain in tree cover of around 1%. However, Europe’s tall forests, which are essential for capturing carbon and preserving biodiversity, declined by 3% over the same period. The decline in forest biomass is prominent in Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Finland, respectively accounting for 29% and 22% of the increase in harvesting, followed by areas in South-eastern Europe. While tall forests can be replaced with new trees, these can take decades to mature, to provide equivalent climate and ecosystem services.

    Logging residues in a forest

    Unsustainable consumption

    In addition to domestic deforestation, Europe is also affecting forests overseas through unsustainable consumption. A European Commission’s study determined that EU Member States imported and consumed between 7 and 10% of the global crops and livestock products linked with deforestation in the countries of origin. Another study by the WWF has found that the EU is the second biggest importer of deforestation after China. In 2017, the EU was responsible for 16% of deforestation linked with international trade, equalling 203,000 hectares and 116 million tonnes of CO₂. The EU surpassed India (9%), the United States (7%), and Japan (5%) in its deforestation impact. This is because the EU is one of the key global importers of a number of specific produces connected with deforestation, such as palm oil (17%), soy (15%), rubber (25%), beef (41%), maize (30%), cocoa (80%), and coffee (60%). The importation of by-products like leather or furniture is also contributing to deforestation globally.

    Shopping trolley in a forest

    EU Regulations

    In recent years, the EU has put in place a series of regulatory and non-regulatory actions to tackle deforestation and forest degradation in Europe and internationally. In July 2019, “Stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests” was adopted, setting out a framework addressing both the supply and demand side of this critical issue. Among some of the suggested measures are improved international cooperation with stakeholders and Member States, improved use of resources and land, and the endorsement of sustainable finance. In May 2023, the EU enacted a regulation focused on the export of commodities linked with deforestation and forest degradation. This act aims to minimise the EU’s contribution to deforestation worldwide, to GHG emissions and global biodiversity loss. In June 2023, the Regulation on Deforestation-free products was published, promoting the consumption of products sourced from sustainable supply chains, coming into application at the end of 2024.

    European Commission's flags

    What’s next?

    While restricting deforestation-free products is essential, EU governments can go beyond this approach. States can invest in scientific research and monitoring programmes that help with developing targeted approaches to tackling deforestation. Also, as specific product imports are driven by consumer demands, raising awareness among consumers about socio-environmental impacts on deforestation can be instrumental in challenging this problem. This can be achieved by promoting the purchase of products bearing the FSC stamp. Moreover, governments can support businesses and organisations engaged in the development of technologies to tackle deforestation and biodiversity-related issues. As explained by the IEA, numerous states recognise that innovation within the energy market is essential to reach climate goals. As they financially support clean energy start-ups, governments have the opportunity to back businesses that are leading biodiversity regeneration technologies.

    A sprout surrounded by coins

    3Bee's Role in Biodiversity Conservation

    Among these businesses, 3Bee is leading the charge in biodiversity technologies, playing an important role in the creation and protection of green spaces. Their esg/the-oases-business/" target="_blank">Biodiversity Oases program aims to transform low-biodiversity areas into thriving urban and agroforestry habitats. With a network of 200 Oases, 3Bee revitalizes regions by planting nectariferous trees of various sizes, fostering active participation in ecosystem restoration. This initiative also promotes the integration of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles and adherence to esg-guide-significance/" target="_blank">Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) standards. Moreover, 3Bee’s Biodiversity Monitoring in urban and agroforestry areas, conducted in accordance with official standards and frameworks, empowers businesses to refine their biodiversity strategies and enhance their sustainability metrics. Their efforts underscore a deep commitment to monitor, protect and regenerate biodiversity, ensuring a resilient and flourishing natural environment.

    A bumblebee on a flower
    06/05/2024Of Navodi Kuruppu
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