Forests at risk as Parliament votes on EU Biodiversity Strategy

Posted on 03 June 2021

The European Parliament must support the report as it was voted in the Environment Committee and not weaken its ambition on forests and agriculture.

What is happening?

On 8 June, the European Parliament is holding a plenary vote on its own-initiative report on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. Yet while the report itself is strong, last-minute proposals from some MEPs would considerably weaken it and potentially harm EU action on biodiversity loss. Because although the report is non-legislative, the Parliament’s vote will send a strong signal to the European Commission and Member States to scale up the protection and restoration of nature in the EU.

When MEPs from the Environment (ENVI) Committee recently voted through the report, they supported ambitious, legally binding nature restoration and strict protection of all remaining old-growth and primary forests. Now, however, some individual MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP), European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and Renew Europe have proposed amendments that would considerably weaken the text. WWF is calling on all MEPs to stand against these amendments and follow the ENVI committee’s progressive position.

Sabien Leemans, Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer at the WWF European Policy Office, said:
“The MEPs from the ENVI Committee sent a really strong signal when they voted on this report in May, and now the entire Parliament has to take up the baton.  They must stand firm against the last-minute proposals which risk undermining the Parliament’s strong and united position on biodiversity, one of the biggest crises of our time. A call for increased protection and restoration of EU’s nature goes beyond saving wildlife, important though that is: it is about ensuring a safe and healthy future for all of us.”

Why does it matter?

The report, as voted through in the ENVI Committee, significantly steps up the ambition for the protection and restoration of nature in the EU. Europe’s nature is deteriorating at an alarming scale, and only ambitious legislation and implementation can help the EU address its biodiversity needs and climate commitments while averting the worst consequences of biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.

However, the paragraphs on forest protection and revision of biomass regulation are expected to receive strong pushback from some Parliament groups. Already in the lead-up to the ENVI Committee vote, the ECR and the EPP attempted to introduce alternative amendments that would have weakened the report by, for example, making forest restoration non-binding and removing the call for revising the sustainability criteria for biomass. These amendments were eventually dropped, but individual members of EPP, ECR and Renew Europe are proposing them again for the vote in the Plenary. 

Also being proposed are amendments that would weaken the language in the report on strict protection and on agriculture, including pesticide and fertiliser reduction targets and the role of healthy and sustainable diets. The Parliament's AGRI Committee has raised concerns that the ENVI MEPs overstepped their competence on some of the topics covered by the report, but this is not true, as the report respects the competency agreement reached between the two committees last December. 

What does WWF want to see?

The European Parliament needs to adopt the report as it was voted through in the ENVI Committee. Any attempt to weaken the ambition, especially when it comes to the protection of forests, will run counter to the EU’s biodiversity needs and climate commitments. Forests are at the very core of climate mitigation and adaptation, and old-growth and primary forests, in particular, can play a crucial role in helping the EU reach the 2050 carbon neutrality target.

The Parliament must also refrain from dropping the call to revise the rules on biomass and bioenergy. These rules must be aligned with the objectives of the Biodiversity Strategy and the Climate Law in the framework of the Renewable Energy Directive and the delegated acts under the Taxonomy regulation. In practice, this means ending incentives for the burning of trees and crops for energy.

For further information:

Sabien Leemans
Senior Biodiversity Policy Officer
Bartosz Brzezinski
Communications Officer for Biodiversity & Agriculture
Tel. +32 484 28 15 10
Last-minute proposals from some MEPs risk weakening the European Parliament's ambition on the protection of forests
© James Morgan / WWF