Concern expressed over EC consultation on climate change target
A collective representation organized by Wild Europe in partnership with Birdlife International, expresses widely held concerns that the current EC consultation on the 2030 climate targets is misleading, and could end up undermining the mitigation of climate change.
It has been signed by 49 organisations across Europe in little over 48 hours.
The EC consultation questionnaire, which aims to collate opinion for developing energy and climate policies, effectively encourages agreement to more ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reduction in 2030 with greater use of renewable energy to achieve these.
The EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy published on 20th May retains the visionary key targets in its earlier version.
Proper implementation of the Strategy will require adequate funding and enforcement on the ground. Nonetheless the Commission is to be congratulated for sticking to its guns, so far, in advocating necessarily ambitious objectives for protection and restoration.
This represents good news for large natural ecosystem areas (“wilderness”) and natural forests – responding positively to major requests in Wild Europe’s most recent representation to Frans Timmermans and the Commissioners for Environment, Agriculture & Rural Development and Energy.
European Investment Bank – a major player for wilderness?
Our response to the consultation on EIB’s road to becoming a “Climate Bank” stresses its great potential opportunity to underpin major natural ecosystem conservation.
True protection principles must be safeguarded, given greater need to rely on private sector participation as COVID undermines official funding sources. There will also be a need for a more ‘balanced portfolio approach’ to include softer loans and grants. And projects funded must genuinely support the Paris Agreement in addressing climate change, with no more scope for image-tarnishing subsidised wood burning bioenergy.
However, if these issues are addressed, EIB could have a highly important potential role to play in achieving ambitious targets old growth forest protection, and restoration of large no-extraction natural ecosystem areas (AKA wilderness).
New Slovakian government unveils potent support for wilderness
The Slovakian government, newly elected on 29th February, has announced strong protection for wilderness, forests and conservation generally.
The programme presented by Prime Minister Igor Matovic introduces three measures of particular importance:
In national parks at least 50% of land will be left unmanaged, promoting fullest re-establishment of natural ecosystem processes and resilience through a land use zonation system.
Administration of protected areas will be unified under the Ministry of Environment, a move long requested by the conservation movement
Increased public scrutiny of forest operations will be encouraged. A mobile phone app will be available for mass use to monitor logging and timber transport, and full forest management programmes with logging data are to be publicly available.
A mechanism is being developed to offer private owners the opportunity to protect wild or wilderness areas on their land effectively ‘in perpetuity’.
The initiative has been created by a partnership between Wild Europe and the Lifescape Project conservation charity in tandem with international law firm Clifford Chance LLP.
Known as “The Legal Mechanism”, this involves legal owners granting a guardian charity the right to enforce ecological protections over the land for 150 years or more, whilst retaining effective ownership of the land for themselves and their descendants, using a leasehold structure. The leases would contain covenants stipulating land use that gives full protection to ecosystems with their wildlife.
Based on well-established procedure in the ‘built’ property sector, the concept is now proven for legislatures in England, Wales and Scotland; a technical brochure has been produced and initial consultations are taking place with landowners.
Wild Europe input to Consultation on EU Climate Target
Wild Europe’s feedback on 15th April welcomed the more ambitious target of a 50%+ drop in the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
However it warned that, if subsidies for wood biomass continue, this target would be at risk – as would the EU’s continuing credibility as a respected proponent of best environmental practice.
Payment of these subsidies is a burden on productive business and personal livelihoods. As economies slowly rebuild post COVID-19, proponents of wood bioenergy subsidy will not be lightly forgiven for supporting the wastage of scarce capital on an expensive myth of renewable energy that actually worsens the climate change it claims to mitigate.
TEG report calls for sharp curb to wood biomass burning
An independent EU Technical Expert Group (TEG) report just published recommends that only residues, thinnings and stumps should qualify as wood bioenergy fuel, along with separate “advanced bioenergy” feedstocks under the new Sustainable Finance Taxonomy (see technical annex for feedstocks).
This in turn will determine eligibility for “green investment” status, counting towards renewable energy targets and involving literally hundreds of billions of Euros.
The recommendation is in sharp contrast to the broad leeway given for “whole tree” wood use by the EU’s Renewable Directive II.
Wild Europe proposes new approaches in the wood bioenergy campaign
The cost of wood burning for bioenergy continues to climb steeply.
A succession of scientific reviews has clearly demonstrated that a practice which now utilises nearly 50% of European timber output is not carbon neutral. It worsens climate change while destroying forest biodiversity, is notoriously energy-inefficient and wastes literally billions of euro annually in subsidies.
In Sound Science for Forests and Bioenergy, a newly released consultation document following its recent conference in Bratislava, Wild Europe proposes new approaches and alliances for tackling this situation. It calls in particular for wider engagement between conservationists, consumer groups, taxpayer associations and investment advisors.
“These other interests may not share the same environmental objectives” said Toby Aykroyd, Wild Europe coordinator “but they have a duty of care to clients and members to ensure that their money is not misspent. By making common cause, we can greatly strengthen our impact on policy makers and corporate shareholders who are slow to heed scientific conclusions in the face of heavy lobbying by bioenergy producers and parts of the forestry sector.”
Wood bioenergy “undermines every aspect” of EU Green Deal
Wild Europe’s draft consultation report, Sound Science for Forests and Bioenergy, examines the impact of wood burning for bioenergy the eight key elements in the European Commission’s draft Green Deal, published on 11th December 2019.
All elements are significantly undermined, as outlined below.
Wild Europe online submission to EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy
Our input to the consultation exercise stressed the key importance of large natural ecosystem areas to the Strategy for adoption at the October 2020 UN Kunming conference.
This provided a brief summary, with input to follow in a Message from Bratislava containing recommendations from our conference in Slovakia on 20/21 November, and from partners in the Wild Europe network.
For climate change and biodiversity loss to be effectively tackled, and the failures of the 2010 Strategy not to be repeated, a quantum change in the capacity of the conservation sector, NGOs and EC alike, will be essential.
Brexit – still time to influence UK environmental policy
The Shakespearean theatre of Brexit completed its final act on 31st January 2020. Accomplishment of a damaging misrepresentation or a visionary “taking back of control”, according to your viewpoint. We now need to move on.
Wild Europe marked the occasion by funding the latest stage of a wild nature mapping and strategy programme by our partners in France.
There is scope for us all to influence the consequences for environmental policy, from within the UK and – for a short while – also through pan European representation to EC negotiators
Give your views on wood bioenergy for an IUCN motion
Use of wood as bioenergy worsens climate change, is an expensive and inefficient form of energy generation and causes huge damage to forests across Europe and in the USA (see below).
If you represent an IUCN member organisation or are a member of WCPA or any IUCN commission, you can comment on submitted motions for the IUCN 2020 Marseilles conference.
Motion # 038 ‘Promoting biodiversity preservation through energy transformation measures’
Representations could include (a) end subsidies for burning wood for bioenergy (b) burning wood is not carbon zero (c) safeguards are needed to protect forest biodiversity. If you have a chance to comment the document, please do so before 26 February (and encourage other allies eg. European Paper Network network to do so too).
ACTION: Log into the conference website using this procedure
Forestry leaders confirm their support for old growth forest
Clear support for the concept and value of old growth forest was expressed by leaders of the European forestry sector at the seminal EU International Conference on Forests for Biodiversity and Climate Change in Brussels.
Hubert de Schorlemer President of the Confederation of European Forest Owners (CEPF) – in grey suit – confirmed “If the small forests we still have which are really really old, we don’t afford to cut them down, no that’s clear“
Reinhardt Nerf, President of the European State Forest Association (EUSTAFOR) – in green jacket – stated “We see the very old forest as a focus of biodiversity and we take it out of timber usage”
Session 2. Launch of the European Wilderness Forum
Session Chair: Gernant Magnin, Wild Europe Executive Committee
Session 3. Natural habitats, ecosystem services and climate change: the need for sound science
Session Chair: Martin Mikolas, Forestry Faculty, Czech University of Life Sciences
Ecosystem services and climate change – why sound science must guide the New Green Deal and beyond Michael Norton, Director of the Environment Programme, European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC)
Linking incentives to science: action for bioenergy in Europe – EU level and country model replication, Mary S Booth, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) USA
Session 4. Promoting best practice in the wild
Session Chair: Bill Murphy, former Head of Environment and Recreation, Coillte Irish Forestry Agency
Updating key instruments: Stage II of Management Guidelines for N2000 wilderness, and the Wilderness Register, Steve Carver, Director Wildland Research Institute (Leeds University), Co-Chair IUCN Rewilding Task Force
Closing session: Implementing and communicating the Action Plan for wilderness and old growth/ primary forest in Europe
Session Chair: Ladislav Miko, Head of EU Representation in Slovakia, Chairman, Wild Europe
As Slovakia’s President opens the conference, EC Director General calls for stringent new protection – and restoration – across Europe
Participants were honoured by a warm welcome from Her Excellency President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, who provided patronage for Wild Europe’s wilderness and old growth forest conference on 20th and 21st November.
Herself a winner of the coveted Goldman Prize for environmental achievement, President Caputova has an understanding of conservation issues rare among national leaders.
Session 4. Workshops - Building a European Action Plan
Each of the themes was related to a practical initiative, so input from participants could make a direct difference.
Addressing the wood biofuel challenge – the urgency of action, Coordinators: Mary S Booth, Director, Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) USA Michael Norton, Director of the Environment Programme, European Academies of Science Advisory Council (EASAC)
Latest stage in primary forest mapping completed – further funding needed
The updated mapping research for Europe’s last remaining primary forest, presented at Wild Europe’s conference in Bratislava on 21st November, represents the next stage in a programme to record all areas
Conducted by Francesco Sabatini and his team from Humboldt University in Berlin, with input from 56 new experts, this update includes a further 700,000 hectares.
It brings the total so far covered to 2.1 million hectares, or just over 1% of forested area – plus European Russia (up to the Ural Mountains) which holds a gigantic 35.5 million hectares.
Countries added include Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
Yet to be published, this update was funded by the Griffith programme of Frankfurt Zoological Society in conjunction with Wild Europe.
Next steps to address a growing threat
A further 3% of European forest cover is thought to exist in primary condition (outside Russia) – with more in Turkey and the Caucasus. Adding this would bring the total of primary forest to just 4% of total forest cover.
Even though the majority of primary forest is nominally under some form of protection, only half is strictly protected. The remainder is under threat, particularly from illegal logging and the rapidly growing use of wood for bioenergy.
With only around a quarter of primary forest so far mapped in Europe (outside Russia), further mapping and recording of status is a vital first step in establishing full protection.
Funding for this third stage is now being sought.
Primary forests have no clearly visible indications of human activity, should have no current intervention and are subject to natural ecological processes. They represent an overall category encompassing old growth forest – a late successional stage – and, where applicable, virgin forest. Generally small and fragmented, they tend to occur in remoter areas and on steep slopes where logging is difficult. The definition used in the mapping exercise is from FAO (FRA 2015 Forest Resources Assessment Working Paper 180).
The original mapping exercise
The original mapping exercise for primary forest was unveiled at Wild Europe’s Brussels conference in 2017, and published in 2018 by Francesco Sabatini and his Humboldt University team.
The mapping covered 1.4 million hectares in 32 countries (0.7% of Europe’s forest area).
The mapping exercise determined that, even though 90% of primary forests are nominally under some form of protection, over half (54%) do not have strict protection.
European Natural Forest School project cancelled
Yet another victim of the Coronavirus pandemic, the inaugural programme of this pioneering educational project has been cancelled.
Due to run in Lubeck, Germany from 30/08/20 – 10/09/20 the Summer School was designed for advanced students and young professionals in conservation and forestry.
Involving a partnership between Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Natural Forest Academy together with Wild Europe, the programme covered natural forest ecology, protection and management from those with a practical understanding of the challenges involved.
There has been great interest, and the programme should be re-established soon.
Wolf Mountains: a trans-frontier wilderness in the making
The Wolf Mountain project, in the Eastern Carpathians, straddles the borders of Slovakia, Poland and Ukraine. It comprises a mosaic of some of the most intact montane grassland, old growth forest and wetland habitats remaining in Europe.
These areas harbour a rich biodiversity of endemic flora and fauna together with still healthy populations of wolf, bison, bear, lynx, beaver, eagle and black stork.
The core area, covering some 100,000 hectares, includes three national parks and three landscape parks. Despite nominal protection, the area is under pressure from logging and hunting.
The aim of the project is to increase levels of protection and promote connectivity between key ecosystems, supporting local non-extractive enterprises, such as ecotourism and branded products, to provide more sustainable income and employment for local communities and landholders.
Wild Europe, in tandem with the European Nature Trust, originally introduced Frankfurt Zoological Society to the project, and has provided support for strategy promotion and enterprise development.
Currently overseen by Aevis Foundation from Slovakia, alongside the Natural Heritage Foundation of Poland, the project is underwritten by long-term support from FZS.
Creating a new wilderness national park for Romania
Wild Europe has been involved in this vision for the South Eastern Carpathians since its inception in 2009
Established by Fundatia Conservation Carpathia with its directors Christoph and Barbara Promberger, the project aims to create an initial 50,000 hectare wilderness reserve adjacent to the Piatra Craiului National Park, and extending Westwards into the Fagaras Mountains. The eventual objective will be to provide a new National Park for Romania covering some 2050,000 hectares.
Project activities include acquisition of extensive tracts of forest, much of it being old growth or virgin (a Romanian definition), as well as Alpine grasslands. Some 22,000 hectares have been purchased to date, with plans for leasing where ownership is not feasible.
Large hunting concessions have been bought, aiming to boost chamois, red deer and boar numbers, which in turn enables enriched populations of wolf, bear and lynx.
Alongside this are programmes for LIFE+ funded restoration of clear felled or degraded forest and riverine habitats, with reintroduction of ungulates including bison and raptors.
Ecotourism and other forms of non-extractive enterprise are also helping to bring income and employment to local communities. FCC additionally manages two model farms that can provide support with husbandry and other management aspects.