More than 737,083 hectares have burned in the European Union since the start of 2022. The environmental disaster is reaching new records in the Amazon, while thousands of hectares continue to be taken over in Indonesia and the peatlands of the basin of the Congo are threatened by oil and gas exploitation. We would be wrong to consider the pressures on the world’s forests separately. They follow the same logic. Everywhere, political and economic actors consider forests as things, which can be appropriated and manipulated at will. Everywhere, forests are grabbed, exploited and enslaved in the name of the search for growth. Everywhere, the people who live there are threatened, humiliated, displaced and sometimes even killed on the altar of profit.
We now know that mono-plantations, especially those of pines or eucalyptus, are a real danger for life. That certain practices such as clear cutting – already prohibited or strictly supervised in Slovenia, Austria, or Latvia – also constitute real threats to forest integrity. We also know that burning wood to save the climate is an aberration.
The wood-energy sector is however stamped “renewable” within the European Union, whatever the methods used. However, in some cases, the exploitation of wood emits more greenhouse gases than coal. The European Parliament is today proposing to stop subsidizing the activity of burning wood for energy, and to limit the amount of energy produced from wood that can be considered ‘renewable’ . It is imperative and urgent that Member States stop considering forests as an inexhaustible resource.
Fight against imported deforestation
If the European Union dithers on its desire to protect its forests, it finally seems ready to act to protect the world’s forests. Recognizing the growing share of the European Union in global deforestation (16% according to the WWF), new legislation provides for establishing a duty of care for all companies placing products on the European market.
This legislation will ensure that shopping will never again cause deforestation or human rights violations: beef, soy, corn or even leather will be affected. Many lobbies are now pressing to reduce the impact of this new law: either by reducing the number of products affected by the new vigilance obligations, or by restricting the territories concerned to wooded forests only and not to mangroves or savannahs. like the Brazilian Cerrado, or even by sparing the financial players of any obligation. BNP Paribas is however one of the biggest players in deforestation, having notably supported activities leading to deforestation to the tune of 5 billion dollars between 2016 and 2020 according to Global Witness. We have to hold on.
Guaranteeing the right of forests to natural regeneration
The European Parliament recently called for the recognition of ancient and primary forests as global natural commons, whose ecosystems must be granted legal status. If we want to preserve living forests, we must urgently break with the dogmas of infinite growth and human superiority over ecosystems, and erect a new rule for forests: that of their right to regenerate.