EDITOR’S COMMENT Issue 90
The European Union was fine-tuning the wording for a ground-breaking piece of legislation aimed at curbing global deforestation and degradation at the time this column was being penned.
The Act, which will find into way into European Parliament in the near term, aims to force global traders of timber and forestry products to ensure the processes through which those products have been delivered have not contributed to deforestation or degradation, by threatening to cut off access to businesses within the 27-nation bloc.
The move has been rightly hailed by environmental – and specifically climateactivist – groups as a breakthrough moment in the fight for our forests, and against the continued destruction of our natural world and anthropogenic climate change.
“The EU is a large consumer and trader of commodities that play a substantial part in deforestation — like beef, cocoa, soy and timber,” Czech Republic Environment Minister Marian Jurečka said when the news broke.
The EU accounts for 16% of tropical deforestation associated with international trade, according to nature-focused news service, Mongabay.
WWF European policy office Senior Forest Policy Officer Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove said those behind the legislation had “made history with this world-first law against deforestation” and hoped other governments would follow suit.
“As a major trading bloc, the EU will not only change the rules of the game for consumption within its borders, but will also create a big incentive for other countries fuelling deforestation to change their policies.”
However, some environmental groups were typically dissatisfied the law did not go far enough. The dissatisfied voices even included senior figures from within groups responsible for the milestone legislation. These voices clashed with reservations from some within the timber trade or economies with material exposure to the timber trade, which have called for refinement to definitions around forest degradation and greater efforts to ensure regulations were not unnecessarily burdensome on sustainable timber trade.
These calls have been led by Canada’s Ambassador to the EU, Ailish Campbell, who was reportedly “greatly concerned” that some elements of the law would establish trade barriers.
These are reasonable concerns to voice. The world is being gripped by rising costs and logistical challenges that make life more difficult and expensive, and threaten livelihoods. It is only sensible that we do not inject additional challenges into the mix through clumsy wording or poorly thought through covenants.
Campbell made it clear Canada was supportive of the law’s objectives and broadly happy with the deforestation elements. The Canadian government also has its independent nature restoration programs in play.
The response to Campbell’s comments from advocates of the bill on the left were overblown, with groups calling her requests “shocking”, among other dramatic adjectives. Language in mainstream, left-leaning newspapers was derisory in describing Campbell’s suggestion that more care was needed before throwing the forest industry baby out with the bath water. She has been under attack.
This is wrong.
The situation is complex. Sustainable industries must be able to operate with limited obstacles to protect national incomes and individual opportunity to earn a living. Establishing a regulatory framework that allows for that while still providing adequate protection to the environment is not straight forward.
Environmental groups who take a fatalistic line on behalf of the Earth as a reason for refusing compromise over regulations are disingenuous or delusional. Humans and are not destroying the planet. We are potentially destroying a planet habitable for humans – the Earth has endured far more extreme temperatures over its 3.6 billion year history than those forecast, and will again; it will chew us up and spit us out as it has countless other species.
Fighting climate change is an understandably selfish and necessary endeavour for humans, driven by humans. We must be able to have a conversation around key changes to the way we live and work for the benefit of all humans.