Massive IUCN support for strict forest protection

By a landslide 674 votes, with only 1 against, IUCN members supported Resolution 127, calling for strict protection of primary/old growth forest in Europe. 

Furthermore this protection is based on prohibition of timber extraction – and was backed by 93 Category A members, which includes governments. 

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Wild Europe proposes new approaches in the wood bioenergy campaign

The cost of wood burning for bioenergy continues to climb steeply.

Based on EUROSTAT solid fuel burning in the EU has increased by 260% since 1990 (Mary Booth’s presentation in Bratislava, November 2019)

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.

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Australia declassifies wood from natural forests as renewable energy

Saved from the incinerator – Australia’s natural heritage

On 15th December Australia became the first G20 nation to renounce natural forests as a legitimate feedstock for bioenergy. They will no longer qualify for subsidies through Large-Scale Generation Certificates.

It underlines the need for strict protection of remaining primary/old growth forest, coinciding with the latest report to demonstrate a much higher carbon carrying capacity of larger trees than previously calculated.

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COP15 – Key aims agreed for global conservation. Now for the implementation

The Montreal-Kunming conference produced a clutch of headline objectives for the Global Biodiversity Framework on 19th December. They follow on from the targets set in Aichi for 2011-2020..

The emphasis now is on ensuring achievement – with 2030 as the imminent target date, aligned with Paris Agreement timelines. Strategies from the EU for biodiversity and forests could provide useful models for the route to implementation. This will occur mainly at national level through NSAPS – National Strategy and Action Plans, with all eyes on the crucial COP16 in 2024 to assess and assist progress over the next two years.  

Meanwhile Wild Europe made useful progress with its allies, particularly the Primary Forest Alliance: over one hundred NGOs have now signed the call for a Moratorium on industrial activity in primary forests [the European adaptation excludes all extractive activity], and considerable national support was gained for the importance of ‘natural ecosystems’ with ‘high integrity’ – the core of our agenda.

Landmark achievements: the objectives for saving biodiversity

A brief summary of key achievements from Montreal outlines the opportunities lying ahead, and the scale of the endeavor needed to implement these:

Counting the minutes to midnight?
  • Effective’ conservation of at least 30% land and sea areas by 2030 (Target 3) – after four years of negotiation consensus was reached among almost 200 signatory nations for a substantial increase over targets set in the Aichi agreement. This headline replicates the EU Biodiversity Strategy target. It also echoes and expands target 11 from Aichi which called for 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine areas. Focus is now on determining levels of protection, criteria for choice of area (Key Biodiversity Areas need priority), relevant modes of management and measures of success.
  • Halting and reversing species extinctions by 2030 and reduce risk tenfold by 2050 (Goal A), with inclusion of Red Lists on species and habitats to provide indicators. This reiterates Target 12 from Aichi. Again clear planning will be required for how this is to be achieved.
  • Have restoration “completed or underway” on at least 30% of degraded areas by 2030. This Target 2 reflects and reinforces another EU Biodiversity Strategy objective, and expands Target 15 from Aichi with its specific linkage to address of climate change.  Criteria and targets for area selection, standards and method of restoration and subsequent protection to be determined.
  • The importance of ‘natural ecosystems’ is emphasized, reducing losses of high biodiversity areas to ‘close to’ zero by 2030, and significantly expanding by 2050 (Goal A), with valuable emphasis on the importance of maintaining ‘high ecological integrity’ (Target 1) and genetic diversity. There is also much-needed citation of connectivity (Target 12). This echoes Targets 5 and 15 from Aichi.
  • Specific definitions and targets will need to be agreed, with more focus on primary ecosystems using clear criteria; it is noted that forests are only mentioned under Target 10 in relation to sustainability.
  • Links between climate change and biodiversity – are not yet agreed, though this is an urgent requirement for practical coordination between IPBES and UNFCC. The overall context here is of concern given, for example, that Target 8 which does not recognize the importance of primary ecosystem protection to address climate change – particularly the value of protecting and enhancing carbon stocks, which was specifically cited in Target 15 from Aichi. 
  • Reduction in perverse subsidies by $500bn per year (Target 18 – echoing Target 3 from Aichi) – good to have a specific and ambitious target, but again clarity will be needed for implementation purposes. It is also of concern that willingness to curb some of the most obvious perversities is compromised – eg by EU subsidies for burning forest bioenergy, a practice that worsens climate change and destroys biodiversity.
EU’S model conservation policies undermined by its catastrophic forest energy policy
  • Aims for financial support (Target 19) are specific, building significantly on the more generalized Target 20 from Aichi.  They call for mobilization of $200bn per year by 2030. Not surprisingly, sources for this are as yet only partly defined, and the crucial funding target ($30bn per year by 2030) for assistance to less developed countries – which carry a disproportionate share of biodiversity – is unambitious in relation to the scale of the task and without a defined delivery vehicle. 
  • The corresponding gap to be filled by private/corporate funding (green bonds, offsets, credits) is thus massive, underlining the urgent need to reinforce measures to prevent greenwashing: tighter controls, capacity building and much closer cooperation between conservation, finance and delivery entities in design of financial instruments, appropriate allocation, subsequent monitoring and penalty provision in the event of misappropriation.
  • The new Global Biodiversity Fund f $20 bn per year by 2025, rising to $30bn by 2030 under the Global Environmental Facility auspices is ambitious and could be highly effective – given identification and activation of appropriate sources
  • Bringing biodiversity into all policy including national accounting systems (Target 14, echoing Target 2 from Aichi) will – if achieved – help further quantify and operationalize the benefits of conservation. In particular it could widen usage of UN SEEA (System of Environmental Economic Accounting)

Requirements for assessment and disclosure of biodiversity impact in the corporate sector are a start – though performance here needs to tighten rapidly.

Equally, it would be useful to incorporate targets for awareness of the biodiversity crisis at all levels: among decision takers in particular (reflecting Target 1 from Aichi).

Like it or loath it, funding from ecosystem services will play a big role

Wild Europe focus

Along with input through its existing projects in Europe, Wild Europe will seek to support development of the GBF through focus on the following aspects:

  • Promoting the importance of primary self-managed habitats, particularly forests, to deliver GBF objectives for ‘natural ecosystems’ with ‘high integrity’ as a high cost-effective opportunity across large areas. Appropriate definition and adoption of ‘high integrity’ in particular will be crucial to ensuring adequate standards of conservation.
  • A stronger economic framework for conservation strategy, using a Gross Domestic Product context to support environmental objectives.  For example, demonstrating that inappropriate practices in the forestry sector, representing 2% of GDP globally, produce extra climate change costs for the remaining 98% of the economy.
  • Capacity building, to include greater emphasis on economic, enterprise, social and representational specialisms at all levels of operation within the conservation sector. There is no reason why ecologically rigorous standards cannot sit comfortably alongside satisfactory commercial returns where private funding is needed – given the right regulatory framework, and sufficient capacity building.
  • A more rigorous assessment system for Nature Based Solution initiatives, set to provide the bulk of conservation funding, particularly from ecosystem services. NGO participation in formulating such assessment is essential if attendant greenwashing is to be minimized; too many financial instruments are currently developed with insufficient input from conservationists, one key reason behind the need for effective capacity building.
  • Assessing potential to transfer global oversight of forest conservation from FAO to a partnership of UNEP and UNFCC. FAO needs to wake up to the economic as well as environmental importance of its role in protecting remaining natural forests as well as ensuring genuine climate and biodiversity friendly policies in managed forests. Its influential definition of deforestation (not applicable unless over 90% of an area has been clear felled) is a classic indication of an unbalanced, predominantly producer orientation.
  • Clarity of definitions: deforestation, degradation, strict protection – some of the poorly articulated concepts that are the bedrock of policy making. They urgently need clear articulation and sets of implementation criteria enabling them to be applied with high ecological standards regardless of biogeographical or cultural context. 
When is deforestation not deforestation

The route ahead for the Global Biodiversity Framework

COP 15 is characterised by several key advances in the objectives agreed. Most of the momentum for implementation of these is expected to come through individual country NBSAPs (National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans). 

For this to occur within the short timescales envisaged, focus will be needed on strong overall guidance, adequate incentives (funding, legislation), and more specific overarching targets and indicators. We need to learn from the performance of the Aichi targets.

Support from the private-corporate sector will be critical to success, begging the usual uneasy interplay between self-interest, incentives and obligation.

Bearing in mind the GBF itself is only advisory, an increasing prevalence will be needed of:

  • outright land ownership by dedicated state, NGO or community conservation interests
  • effective long-term legal protection instruments where this is not possible
  • readiness to underwrite goals with legal strictures where other forms of agreement, MOU or contract fail to provide sufficiently rigorous protection and restoration

Attendance by heads of state is the ultimate hallmark of priority, and most were absent from Montreal. Those tasked with now developing the genuine achievements of COP15 need to secure active engagement at the highest levels of decision taking.

Ambitious Restoration Strategy outlined at SERE symposium

Key proposals for a Restoration Strategy based were laid out in a symposium held at the Society for Ecological Restoration (SERE, Europe Chapter) in Alicante on 9th September.

Titled “Large scale rewilding across Europe: overcoming challenges to achieve a historic opportunity“, the symposium suggested ambitious objectives and called for extensive reforms to achieve these.

It was headed by Ladislav Miko, lead environmental advisor to the current EC Presidency and Wild Europe trustee. Toby Aykroyd of Wild Europe coordinated the event with Kris Decleer of SERE Council and there was further keynote participation from Erika Stanciu, Vice Chair of WCPA, Chair of Wild Europe, and Cara Nelson, Chair of the IUCN Ecosystem Thematic Group.

Key proposals

The symposium’s proposals ranged widely cross the spectrum of habitat types and conservation modes. They included:

  1. Non-intervention management through natural processes to be a core default element in restoration and ‘strict protection’ of 10% of the EU terrestrial and maritime territory: to secure cost-effective conservation, effective protection of dependent species, mitigation, resilience and adaptation to climate change, with scale delivery of quality ecosystem services
  2. Strict protection of primary/old growth forest, involving a ban on all extractive activity, to be extended to 15% of European forest cover – enabling consolidation of fragmented remnants, effective ecosystem function, buffering and connectivity; wherever possible this will be based on recovery through natural regeneration for the c 12% needing restoration.
  3. The interface between areas with conservation governed solely by natural processes and those where conservation is actively managed (secondary habitats such as grasslands, healthlands, silvopastoral landscapes, together with individual endangered species) to be carefully identified, specified, and enacted; this includes initial intervention where needed followed by long-term set aside.
  4. The above proposals to be implemented through multi-sector cooperation based on reformed grants for protection & restoration, together with a fully activated

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) agenda and emphasis on securing long-term protection.

Close alignment with EU plans

The proposals are designed to be supportive of the necessarily far-reaching EU Biodiversity and Forest Strategies, and relate to emerging elements for the forthcoming EU Restoration Law – as well as linking to requests by conservation networks more generally.

The call for non-intervention management as a default within the definition of ‘strict protection echoes the representations of the European Habitat Forum on the Biodiversity Strategy produced in May 2019.

Growing momentum for the key role of non-intervention

Equally, Resolution 127 at IUCN Marseilles in 2021 called for a ban on logging and extraction generally as a key element in stronger support for protection & restoration of primary/old growth forest. This was backed by a massive vote of 674 members, 93 of whom category A – ie including governments; it is in turn based on Wild Europe’s 2018 Old Growth Forest Protection Strategy.

The need for far-reaching reforms

The symposium welcomed the extra funding to be made available by the EU for biodiversity targets. However far-reaching reforms are still needed, against a backdrop of growing climate crisis ,with the main 2020 Biodiversity Strategy targets missed and 81% of habitats and 63% of species in poor conservation status.

Among further proposals from the symposium:

Crucial linkage between restoration and addressing climate change
  • A systematic strengthening in the capacity of the conservation sector for economic valuation, enterprise management, financial procurement and lobbying specialisms was cited as a key requirement – at all strategic and operational levels. This is felt essential, to strengthen rather than supplant traditional conservation approaches, if the EU Strategies are to be adequately funded and win out against competitive or damaging land use practices.
  • More immediately, there is a requirement for carefully collated restoration targets: per country, area and habitat type – with sequential milestones up to 2050. These should be based on clearly formulated baseline and achievement goals, aiming to maximise both the extent of ecosystem renovation and of the total areas involved.
  • Adoption of SERE principles of restoration has a crucial role to play here, bringing together stakeholders, identifying common ground and setting clear goals along a continuum of restorative activity – in both strictly protected and protected areas.
  • Clearer linkage is also needed in practical planning to address the twin climate change and biodiversity crises – focused on a joint UNFCC/CBD approach, reflected at national and local level.
  • One element of this is a costed strategy to abolish climate-damaging subsidies for commercial scale forest bioenergy, and reallocate these to genuine renewables, conservation of carbon absorbent landscapes and measures to reduce emissions and boost the green economy

The overall Restoration Strategy is being finalized. It draws substantially off Wild Europe’s 2020 Action Plan and will include inputs provided by the Symposium audience after the presentations on 9th September.

For further information read

Large scale rewilding across Europe: Can we overcome challenges to achieve a historic opportunity? Ladislav Miko, Ministry of Environment, Czech Republic; lead environmental advisor to current EU Presidency; former Chairman, now trustee, Wild Europe Foundation

Let nature do the job. Large-scale spontaneous regeneration: where and where not? Kris Decleer, SERE Council; Senior Researcher Research Institute for Nature and Forest Belgium

An effective supporting strategy for successful rewilding strategy, Erika Stanciu, Chair of Wild Europe Foundation, Vice Chair WCPA Europe. Founder of ProPark Foundation and former President Europarc Foundation

EU Conservation and Restoration Strategies: Insights from a Global Perspective, Cara Nelson, Chair of the Ecosystem Thematic Group for IUCN

Funding a restoration strategy: the need for extensive reform, Toby Aykroyd, Director of Wild Europe Foundation, trustee European Nature Trust, FCC Romania and Rewilding Britain

Huge potential for a wild country

Rewilding for Ireland – from theory to practice

After centuries of deforestation and degradation, ecological restoration projects are starting to spring up across Ireland – seeking to address climate change and reverse biodiversity loss.

There is useful scope for establishing a few standardised principles of good practice, and this was the theme of a presentation to some 120 members of the Irish Wildlife Trust, given in 2021 by Zoltan Kun of Wild Europe and member of the IUCN Thematic Rewilding Group.

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Ladislav Miko appointed lead advisor to EC Presidency

Speaking at Wild Europe’s 2010 EC Presidency conference on restoration

Congratulations to Ladislav Miko on his appointment to advise the forthcoming EC Presidency, to be undertaken by the Czech Republic from July to December this year.

Longtime stalwart supporter of wilderness in Europe, and Chairman of Wild Europe until recently (still a trustee), Ladislav will relinquish his current role as head of the EU representation to the Slovakian Republic to undertake this crucial task. 

He will be faced by a crowded schedule that encompasses numerous meetings in the run up to determination of the EU Biodiversity and Forest Strategies, as well as the emerging Restoration Law. 

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Untrodden Mountains Project logo

Greece leads the way to roadless protection

Construction or extension of roads and other ‘artificial interventions’ has been banned across large areas in an Untrodden Mountains initiative announced by Prime Minister Kryiakos Mitsotakis. 

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Tongass triumph! Protection for the world’s largest old growth temperate forest

A coastline fronting 27,000 klm of forest lakes, rivers & creeks

In a highly significant victory for old growth forest, on 25th January the Biden administration reinstated roadless legislation to the Tongass Forest of South Eastern Alaska.

Just over 3.7 million hectares, the world’s largest intact temperate forest, was accorded strict protection along with its massive carbon stocks and rich array of wildlife.

This great achievement by a coalition of First Nation peoples, recreational and fishing interests, working with dedicated conservationists [to whom Wild Europe is honoured to have added its support] sends a clear and timely signal to decision takers in Europe: protection of forest from the EU Biodiversity & Forest Strategies must be equally strict and on the largest scale possible – translating into non extraction and non intervention.

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Forestry leaders confirm their support for old growth forest

Europe’s largest forestry associations support old growth forest Attribution: European Union

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” 

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Perfect storm for a forest bioenergy crisis – and how to address it

Commercial bioenergy, a booming industry. Dogwood Alliance

Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that forest bioenergy worsens climate change, with higher emissions than any other fuel including gas or coal, elements within the EC currently considering reform of RED II continue to give it their strong support.

In doing so, they will undermine the recently raised climate targets for 2030 and 2050, the aims of the Green Deal, and the EU’s global reputation for environmental probity.

First we have had strong indications in their consultation process that DG Energy in particular does not wish to see reforms to the Renewable Energy Directive II that currently enables subsidies for commercial scale forest bioenergy burning.

Then, on 22nd May, the EC published the Delegated Taxonomy Act that confirms a wish for such subsidies to remain in place, against the advice of its own TEG consultancy body, together with a weakening of controls on forestry practice.

That was closely followed on 27th May by a Report from the International Energy Agency advocating a 60% increase in bioenergy use. Consumption of forest wood in Europe for bioenergy already runs in excess of 350 million tonnes, at an annual wastage of 6 – 6.5 billion Euro pa for consumers and taxpayers – not to mention additional negative impacts on forests, biodiversity, health and air pollution generally.

……. and the consequences, wholesale destruction of mature forest. Dogwood Alliance

Finally, we have the resurfacing of the Energy Charter Treaty, a legally binding instrument which enables energy companies to sue governments and other entities for changes to energy policy that may compromise their future earnings. It is proposed the provisions of this instrument be extended to ‘renewables’, forest bioenergy among them. If enabled, such extension would make it exceedingly difficult to dislodge this damaging and inefficient form of energy generation, indeed it could ossify the overall pattern of investment regardless of technical validity.

Fuelled by heavy lobbying from forestry and bioenergy interests seeking to defend large subsidies without which the commercial bioenergy industry would collapse overnight, this destructive juggernaut is now running out of control.

An action plan with impact

There are four underutilised opportunities that can help stop this momentum:

  • Development of a positive alternative energy policy, demonstrating how climate change is far more efficiently tackled by switching subsidies from forest bioenergy to alternative genuine renewables (wind, solar, marine, geothermal plus heat pumps and infrastructure), protection and restoration of carbon absorbing ecosystems, and emission suppression (re-budgeted insulation, recycling etc).  

Promotion of matched funding from the EC (Just Transition, Climate and Recovery Funds) institutions (EIB etc) and the private sector will greatly reinforce the impact of this subsidy reallocation.

Current campaigning by the conservation sector is poorly structured from a lobbying perspective, despite its technical soundness, offering a problem to decision takers – how to fill the energy gap – rather than a positive way ahead.

  • Further developing the alliance against forest bioenergy to encompass consumers, taxpayers and industry representatives. Another key area of focus involves informing consumers and persuading them to switch retail energy supplier.
  • Raising awareness in the forest bioenergy finance arena of the above actions – particularly the potential shift in consumer demand – undermining the perceived commercial viability of this sector, raising the cost of risk-assessed capital and promoting reallocation of investment
  • Realigning the End Fossil Fuels campaign to become End Carbon Fuels.Given the higher emissions from bioenergy than gas or coal, this can only strengthen the position of fossil fuel and bioenergy campaigners alike.

Wild Europe is working on all these aspects of campaigning. For further information please contact info@wildeurope.org

10 June 2021

COP 26 Climate Change Summit – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Billed as a last chance saloon to avert profoundly damaging climate change before the 2030 target date, COP 26 in Glasgow from 1-13 November 2021 was characterised by a spate of pronouncements and initiatives. 

What did it really achieve for climate and biodiversity, and how can this be built on strategically?

A few bullet points set the scene towards COP27 in Cairo.

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Action Plan for a wilder Europe

Wild Europe’s Action Plan for large natural ecosystem areas – in EU and non EU countries – has been launched.

Action Plan for a wilder Europe

Described as ambitious but thoroughly practical, the Plan is strongly supportive of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and many of its key targets run in parallel:

  • Strict protection for a linked network of areas covering 10% of Europe’s terrestrial and marine areas
  • All old growth/primary forest to be included in strict protection together with adjacent areas – totalling some 15% of forest cover
  • Such strict protection to involve non-intervention, particularly for forests, unless necessary in limited circumstances for protection of individual endangered species

Targets built on inter-sector consensus

Such targets are underpinned by recognition that adequate compensation must be paid to private landholders, alongside full activation of the Payment for Ecosystem Services agenda and significant support for carbon rich ecosystems from the Climate Fund. It is important to build common ground with inter-sector consensus to achieve this.

There are a couple of dozen projects already underway in support of the Plan, and Wild Europe is one of 6 NGOs (along with IUCN, WWF, BLI, FERN and EEB) on the EC’s Forest and Nature Working Group, providing input for implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy. Strong emphasis is placed on reasserting the integrity of Europe and the EU’s global status for environmental probity – with a call for cessation of all subsidies for forest bioenergy, and their reallocation to genuine renewables that address rather than aggravate climate change.

Published on 1 March 2021

A pan European remit for the Foundation

Wild Europe attains foundation status

As of 2nd February 2022 Wild Europe is designated as a Stichting, registered in the Netherlands

Our objectives remain unchanged, although our new structure will significantly enhance our ability to secure these across a broad range of activities. While we are based in the European Union, our remit will still cover the whole of Europe: from Ireland in the West to the Urals and Caucasus in the East.

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Large wilderness mapping exercise in Iceland 

Summary outcome of wilderness mapping (source: Wildland Research Institute)

Protection for several of Europe’s largest remaining wilderness areas is now within reach, thanks to a new mapping initiative. This has been undertaken by Icelandic cartographers in tandem with the Wildland Research Institute of Leeds University, directed by Steve Carver.

Based on Wild Europe’s definition and zonation criteria, itself linked to IUCN Category Ib, the initiative was launched on 22nd March 2022 in Reykjavik with Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, Minister for Environment.

Wilderness still covers over 40% of Iceland’s terrestrial area, and this exercise provides a valuable model for identifying large natural ecosystem areas that are suitable for restoration and protection in Europe generally. 

It is particularly relevant given the consensus among conservationists for non-intervention to play a significant role in the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy as the default interpretation of “strict protection” applying to 10% of EU terrestrial and marine areas. 

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Slovakian wilderness protection targets re-affirmed

President highlights targets at UN Summit

Major targets for non-intervention in national parks in the 2019 Greener Slovakia strategy were highlighted in a speech by President Caputova on 30th September at the UN Biodiversity Summit.

50% of NP area as non-intervention will be achieved by 2025.

75% will be achieved by 2030.

This clear re-affirmation should animate action to implement these protection targets in Slovakia itself, and be a useful catalyst for European governments generally. Another objective should, wherever possible, be attainment of IUCN Category I: complete non-intervention status.

President Caputova’s speech follows the unveiling earlier this year of a series of measures to strengthen environmental protection.

‘Model’ wilderness area in Alps based on Wild Europe definition

Gateway to the Sulzbachtäler/Hohe Tauern Wilderness © Josef Schrank

Author: Bernhard Kohler, WWF Austria

A wilderness area covering 6,700 hectares has been unveiled in the North West of Hohe Tauern National Park in Austria, following formal designation in 2019.

This is based on criteria from the Wild Europe definition and comes under the aegis of the Salzburg municipality.

The wilderness area has great promise as a model for the restoration strategy to implement targets in the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy – echoing Wild Europe’s own objectives of strict protection for at least 10% of EU and non-EU terrestrial areas.

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Definition of old growth / primary forest produced 

Forest
Sometimes hard to define. Even harder to protect.

A draft definition structure has now been produced to support objectives in the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy for protection and restoration of natural forest.

Applicable throughout Europe, this definition was initiated at the 2017 Brussels conference involving input from conservation and forestry interests among others.

It covers an overview of primary forest together with its constituent elements of old growth and virgin forest – the latter a narrower interpretation used mainly in Romania. 

Your feedback is welcome please:

  • Do you have any comments on the definition?
  • How readily could it be applied in your country?
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New legal structure for long-term protection

The transformative effect of a 150 year protection lease? 

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. 

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New “LEAF” initiative to support forest protection

Logging lorry
An Early Warning System can help prevent illegal logging (Agent Green, Romania)

A proposal by Wild Europe involves linking a network of NGOs, individual conservationists, land owners and community members dedicated to saving remaining natural forests in Europe.

Named by its acronym of LEAF, Last European Ancient Forests, and coordinated by a small secretariat, the initial objective will be to create a platform in support of the 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy targets – including strict protection of all old growth/primary forests.

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European Parliament Environment Committee call for moratorium on logging of old growth/primary forests

The temporary moratorium lays a clear path to effective protection, and should deter destruction or degradation of these forests in advance of any legislation.

Protect forests, don’t burn them. All eyes are on the European Parliament

It forms a key element in a package of suggestions launched by the Committee on 28th May for a Biodiversity Law they propose by 2022, backed with legally binding targets for 2030.

Other proposals include revision of rules for EU bioenergy production, currently enabling subsidy of commercial scale forest biomass burning despite this worsening climate change, to align with objectives of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Climate Law.

The text will be voted in plenary on 7th June.

Former UNFCC chief casts further doubt on wood bioenergy subsidies

An ill wind? When renewable energy is not renewable

Adding his voice to a growing chorus of scientific concerns that wood bioenergy burning worsens rather than resolves climate change, highly respected former UNFCC Vice Chairman of Jean-Pascal van Ypersele has issued a clear statement:

“To subsidise an activity that has negative consequences for the climate and the environment is totally contradictory with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the goals of the conference (COP26) due to take place in Glasgow at the end of the year.”

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EU Parliament critical of Svydovets resort plan

Natural landscape of the Svydovets region

An EP Resolution on implementation of its annual EUAA Report on Ukraine, published 11th February 2021, criticises planned development of this mega ski and recreation complex in the Zakarpattia oblast of the Ukrainian Carpathians, forecast to host 28,000 visitors per day.

The Resolution calls on the Ukrainian government to prevent widespread illegal logging – particularly of primeval forests – which it cites as the main cause of flooding in the region. It further calls on the EU to take steps help prevent such logging “in connection with the unlawful Svydovets ski resort project”.

Establishment of more protected areas in the country is also requested

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International conference for primary/old growth forest

A summit to catalyse joint action for the world’s remaining natural forests was co-hosted in webinars on 25/26th March 2021 by Wild Heritage and Wild Europe.

This represented the European element in a regional series under the auspices of the IntAct initiative, involving participation by Rebecka le Moine MP (Sweden), Ville Niinisto MEP (Finland) Michal Wiezik MEP (Slovakia) and others from the European parliament, with a range of international speakers and NGO expertise.

Cyril Kormos of Wild Heritage (US) introduced the aims of the summit: the European element of a global series promoting coordinated protection of primary/old growth forest. Toby Aykroyd of Wild Europe outlined the special circumstances relevant to forest conservation here.

The summit highlighted the value of old growth/primary forest generally with Professor Brendan Mackay of Griffith University (Australia) addressing the interlinked challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss. It also stressed the importance of strict protection involving total non-intervention. Professor William Moomaw of Climate Research Centre (US) introduced the concept of ‘proforestation’ and emphasised the need for restoration to be based on ecological principles, with natural regeneration prioritised over planting wherever feasible.

The global significance of EU and national government forest policy was reviewed, with focus on how to build effectively on policy gains and tackle problematic issues such as forest bioenergy – explained by Mary Booth of PFPI (US), while David Gehl of EIA (US) addressed illegal logging. Virginia Young (Intact Global) introduced the Nexus Report and underlined the need for UNFCC and CBD to appreciate the spiralling link between biodiversity health and climate change.

Following introduction by Matthias Schickhofer (Euronatur, Germany) of a proposed project to promote old growth forest protection in the EU, recommendations were then collated for an international strategy of cooperation. Zoltan Kun of Wild Europe summarised these.

Further details of the strategy will be published.

Agenda

Background

Presentations

References

Updated on 8 April 2021

Further progress towards German forest wilderness targets

A further 1950 hectares of beech forest has been purchased for the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park, North of Frankfurt – adding a further 30% to the existing old growth forest area, with some trees up to 500 years old.

The Northern slopes of Kellerwald, Wildnis in Deutschland

“This is where tomorrow’s wilderness arises and the protection of these areas makes a valuable contribution to natural forest development and the promotion of biodiversity,” Priska Hinz, Hessian Environment Minister affirmed.

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