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

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 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

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.”

Read More …

Action Plan for a wilder Europe

Wild Europe’s Action Plan for large natural ecosystem areas – in EU and non EU countries – was launched on 11th January.

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

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, 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

Read More …

Action Plan for a wilder Europe

Action Plan for a wilder Europe

Wild Europe’s Action Plan for large natural ecosystem areas – in EU and non EU countries – was launched on 11th January.

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:

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.

Read more

‘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.

Read More …

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?
Read More …

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. 

Read More …

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.

Read More …

European Investment Bank – a major player for wilderness?

European Investment Bank sign
European Wilderness Bank?

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).

Read More …
Three speakers at the BioStrategy launch
Frans Timmermans launches the BioStrategy with Commisioners Kyriakides (Health, Food Safety) & Sinkevičius (Environment)

EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: A major step forward

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. This was subsequently responded to by Environment Commissioner Sinkevicius.

Forest
Ecologically priceless, beautiful – but is it protected? Matthias Schickhofer

Strong EC Commitments to protection

Key commitments by the Commission in the Biodiversity Strategy include

Legal protection by 2030 for a minimum 30% of the EU’s land and seas:

  • Strict protection for at least a third of these Protected Areas – ie 10% of total area, offering great potential for large natural ecosystem areas
  • This stipulation includes strict protection of all remaining EU old growth/primary forests along with other ecosystems
  • Establishment of comprehensive green & blue ecological connectivity
  • Call for effective definitions, mapping and management of the above – with implicit funding availability

For restoration – there is a new EU Nature Restoration Plan, with core focus on ecosystem services:

Aerial view of fenland landscape
The Great Fen – international icon for peatland restoration, IUCN UK National Committee
  • Legally binding Nature Restoration Targets by 2021 for degraded ecosystems
  • These include no deterioration in PA conservation status by 2030
  • Criteria for additional areas to be determined at national level by end 2021, with effective action by 2023
  • 3 billion trees planted by 2030 (natural forest is needed)
  • 25,000 km of free flowing rivers, which can be linked to ‘blue connectivity’ and basin-scale flood mitigation, including restoration of riverine, flood sink and upland watershed forest and wetland
  • A new CAP to deliver at least 10% of agricultural area under “high diversity landscape features”. Wild Europe will be re-stressing its proposal for a supplementary Ecological Focus Area, tradable at regional level, to promote creation of consolidated large areas of natural ecosystem funded by CAP

A more mixed picture for renewable energy

For renewable energy, and the related RE Strategy, the picture is more mixed. 

A stain on the EU image: subsidised destruction of beech forest for commercial burning
  • Wording of permitted inputs for bioenergy remains significantly vague. Use of whole trees should be disallowed for financial support, not just “minimised”
  • It is unclear whether improved operational guidance on RED II sustainability criteria will support further improvements needed to recent TEG Taxonomy suggestions 
  • Subsidies for wood burning bioenergy must cease forthwith or this damaging practice, now representing half of timber consumption in Europe, will continue to undermine all eight elements of the EU Green Deal and compromise the EU’s coveted position as global leader in sound environmental practice. A poor image at COP15 in Kunming, 2021.

As Environment Commissioner Sinkevicius said at the Biodiversity Strategy launch “We cannot halt and reverse biodiversity loss without achieving Paris Agreement goals, and vice versa”.

Next steps in implementation

Much work is required to translate the 2030 Biodiversity Strategy commitments into adequate action.

  • Protection of old growth/primary forest should involve linkage of fragmented remnants and restoration of adjacent areas to enable proper ecosystem function and resilience 
  • The importance of scale and the central role of non-intervention management in delivering ecosystem services for strictly protected areas needs full recognition and application
  • The EC should promote the objectives of its Biodiversity Strategy in non EU European countries: through neighbour agreements, accession treaties, trade & aid policies, exchange of best practice
  • The 2021 EU Forestry Strategy needs to be truly aligned to biodiversity objectives with appropriate conservation measures
  • The new Forest Information System for Europe (FISE) should be an effective instrument for protection as well as restoration
  • Capacity building must address major gaps in the conservation sector’s ability to utilise macro-economic approaches and PES enterprise (payment for ecosystem services) for achievement of biodiversity objectives
  • The ‘significant proportion’ of the 25% EU budget on climate change to be spent on nature-based solutions needs clearly elaborating, along with other funding instruments – including the Recovery Instrument.
A strategy for all of Europe

A strategy for all of Europe 

The European Commission should also promote the objectives of its Biodiversity Strategy in non EU European countries.

Many of these contain the most valuable remaining areas of natural ecology in our continent, but generally have the lowest budgets for protection and the least effective legal protection. The EC can achieve much here: through neighbour agreements, accession treaties, trade & aid policies, exchange of best practice.

Implementation of Stage II of the current EU Wilderness Register, proposed by Wild Europe, will be an important step here. This would incorporate non EU countries into the existing Register and focus on non-extractive enterprise to secure conservation funding and local community and landholder support from the PES agenda

Funding and enforcement

The 20 bn Euro funding per year is relatively under budgeted for the scale of the task, and will have to come from private as well as public funds

There is additionally a ‘significant proportion’ of the 25% EU budget on climate change to be spent on nature-based solutions. This allocation needs clearly elaborating, along with other funding instruments – including the Recovery Initiative.

The need to ensure full enforcement is also critical. Many areas in the Natura 2000 network have little or no appropriate protection. Poor management at local level and slow prosecution are a major problem – with Court action at EC level (ECJ) on infringements of environmental law often being a very slow process.

Another glaringly simple problem is key habitats such as old growth forest are still not directly identified as requiring protection – one reason among many why the EU Guidelines on the Management of Wilderness and Wild Areas now need a Stage II version.

Effective reform of the Arhus Convention, strengthening access to information and justice for NGOs and individual citizens, will be helpful.

A complete overhaul of the Environmental Impact Assessment procedure is also urgently needed.

Congratulations and cooperation

Subject to the above, the EU is to be warmly congratulated for advocating the visionary aims in its Biodiversity Strategy that are so critical for addressing the dual crises of climate change and species extinction.

For its part Wild Europe also looks forward to liaising closely with representatives from forestry and land user sectors – including CEPF, EUSTAFOR and EFI – in identifying common ground and ensuring benefit for local landholders and communities as well as conservation.

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.

Gerlachovsky stit in the High Tatras – Slovakia’s precious heritage deserves the respect of conservation

The programme presented by Prime Minister Igor Matovic introduces three measures of particular importance:

  1. 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.
  2. Administration of protected areas will be unified under the Ministry of Environment, a move long requested by the conservation movement
  3. 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.
Read More …

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.

Read More …

“Not all biomass is carbon neutral” First sign of realism from the wood bioenergy industry?

At last key figures in wood bioenergy burning are acknowledging rapidly accumulating scientific evidence on the worsening of climate change caused by their industry.

Not all biomass should automatically be categorised as carbon neutral” admitted a “chief sustainability officer” of US-based Enviva, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets for commercial power generation, during a webinar discussion on 29th June.

The wood bioenergy industry – going up in smoke? (Dogwood Alliance)

The overall message still lacks full credibility. “To bring climate benefits, biomass needs to come from low-value wood residues or smaller trees coming from timber harvests – not from high-value trees that could be used in products like furniture or construction material” the Enviva spokesperson is reported as saying. 

The narrative is thus more about not burning valuable quality timber than the notoriously high emissions from wood bioenergy – and no doubt results from growing concern even within the forestry sector about such blatant wastage.  Many energy plants claim to only burn residues, despite clear photographic evidence to the contrary, and there is widespread practice of chipping timber into ‘residues’.

The first sign of realism?

Nonetheless this admittance marks the first sign of realism from a wood bioenergy sector that has devoured massive quantities of consumer and taxpayer resources, to the tune of some 6.5 billion Euros for just 15 EU countries in 2017, despite wood being the least efficient form of renewable energy with emissions even higher than natural gas. 

Consuming 400 million tonnes per year of wood in Europe, wood bioenergy is devastating biodiversity rich forests and is likely to make crucial 2030 climate targets significantly less achievable.

Raising awareness of voters, consumers, taxpayers

An initiative is underway to raise awareness of this situation among voters, consumers and taxpayers. Their eyes will shortly be on policy makers to cease all subsidies to wood bioenergy, reallocating incentives to effective, less polluting sources of renewable energy as well as genuine means of addressing climate change such as insulation, recycling and emission reducing technology.

Banks, funds and general investors wood bioenergy should also take heed that the writing is firmly on the wall for the future value of their holdings.

Concern expressed over EC consultation on climate change target

Areal view of Romanian logged landscape
Romania’s new landscape. What message does EU wood bioenergy policy send to Bolsonaro about the Amazon rainforest?
(Andrei Ciurcanu, Agent Green)

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. 

Read More …

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. 

Read More …

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” 

Read More …

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.

Wild Europe online submission on EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2030

[Please note the consultation imposed a 4000 character maximum. For further information contact info@wildeurope.org]

Background

The New Green Deal is visionary. However, failure of the 2010 Biodiversity Strategy to achieve its main targets, continued loss of biodiversity, the enduring populist mandate from the 2009 EP Wilderness Resolution, the now clearly pivotal role of natural processes in addressing climate change, all point to the need for much stronger focus on protection & restoration of large non-intervention natural ecosystem areas.

The importance of these, also termed ‘wilderness’ and ‘wild areas’, lies in their environmental, economic and social attributes.

Recommendations

1) Reinforce conservation of large natural ecosystem areas

• Stronger very long-term protection of existing areas 

• Restoration of new areas, on a scale to ensure substantial mitigation of climate change 

• Linkage into wider ecological networks 

• Full implementation of nature & water legislation 

• Promoting protection in non-EU states via Neighbourhood Agreements, Accession Treaties, trade & aid policies 

• All biomes, with ecotones 

• Specific timeline targets

2) Protection of old growth/primary forest

• Strict protection of old growth/primary forest, clearly defined by criteria 

• Enforce full development & use of N2000 management plans, with divulgence of information 

• Rapid response to illegal logging, including fast track Court intervention and EC Audit enquiry; promote EUTR reforms 

• Increase the scale of old growth/primary forests 

• Clarification, to foresters, citizens & governments, of the vital role played by old growth (mature)/primary forest in mitigating climate change 

• Cessation of subsidy to timber burning bioenergy that worsens climate change

3) Supplementary actions to achieve the above goals

• Completed mapping of areas for protection & restoration; support for updates, monitoring & intervention [Early Warning System] 

• Set-aside of state forest agency areas where logging is uneconomic, or if contain old growth/primary forests 

• Adequate compensation for private sector landholders to protect forest & other habitat 

• Promoting the value of large natural ecosystems to governments, citizens & sector representatives

4) Appropriate policy and structures

Improve inter DG coordination, avoiding contradictory projects

• Capacity building in the conservation sector for key specialisms: economic valuation, enterprise management, finance, sociological input 

• Promote legal structures enabling very long-term protection in private ownership: freehold/lease arrangements, easements, trusts 

• Stage 2 of the Wilderness Register: include non EU countries; socio-economic & enterprise capacity 

• Stage 2 of the Natura 2000 Management Guidelines for wilderness & wild areas: include good practice exchange with Emerald & UNESCO networks; socio-economic & enterprise capacity 

• Closer coordination between EC, UNESCO and Bern Convention (if this remains an operating entity)

5) Greatly increased funding in New Green Deal

• Major reallocation of CAP budget to ecosystem service provision 

• Include 3% supplement to Ecological Focus Areas, tradable at regional level, creating new natural ecosystem areas 

• Double the LIFE budget 

• 50% of EIB budget and 45% of the new NDICI (Neighbourhood, Development, International Cooperation Instrument) budget, Europe component, to address climate change with ecosystem restoration as a key element 

• Promote iconic regional scale nature-based initiatives addressing climate change – eg Clima Carpathia (FCC) 

• Facilitate funding mechanisms for the PES agenda: eg promote good practice for projects implementing forest & peatland carbon codes; support the Market Stability Reserve if Brexit dilutes carbon value 

• Promote use of innovative funding: eg Insurance Tax Premium supplements for flood mitigating restoration projects (river basin scale); EIB long-term soft loan capacity; mixed source Green Bonds 

• Promote the social benefit and deprivation agendas to key budget holders

20 January 2020

Brexit – still time to influence UK environmental policy

Our suited Briton has finally sawn off his branch

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

Read More …

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. 

Creating a new wilderness national park for Romania

Boia Mica Valley in the Fagaras Mountains, a so-far untouched haven of virgin forest, Matthias Schickhofer

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.

Update shows wide use in 2020 of the wilderness definition

Valley Head of Krimmler Achental, Hohe Tauern NP

A recent review of Wild Europe’s definition of wilderness, originally produced in 2014, shows its use is widespread and expanding. The intention was to create a set of criteria that produce uniformly high standards for protection and restoration, regardless of biogeographical or cultural circumstance.

Below are some of the applications:

  • The European Commission has adopted the Wild Europe definition for the Wilderness Register, and for its Guidelines on wilderness and wild area management in the Natura 2000 network – reference: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/nature/natura2000/wilderness/pdf/WildernessGuidelines.pdf
  • The German Federal government is using linkage to the definition within a broader approach for their 2% wilderness target, albeit tied to a smaller minimum size in order to be able to achieve this ambitious national objective within a reasonably short timescale – reference: https://www.bfn.de/themen/biotop-und-landschaftsschutz/wildnisgebiete/qualitaetskriterien.html 
  • The Austrian National Parks Association has adopted the Wild Europe minimum size along with its other criteria because the definition is seen as offering a credible and practical instrument. It has already been used as the basis for designation of wilderness areas for Kalkalpen and Hohe Tauern National Parks.
  • Fundatia Conservation Carpathia (FCC) Romania, aiming to assemble the largest privately funded wilderness reserve in Europe, is using the definition as the basis for planning its acquired landholdings, negotiating community land use agreements where purchase is not possible.
  • The European Wilderness Society has developed the EWQA (European Wilderness Quality Assessment), a programme of certification based on the Wild Europe definition, which it is rolling out in a number of countries across Europe.
  • Sumava National Park (Czech Republic) is using the definition to play a key role in long-term wilderness planning, alongside a model programme of ‘wilderness support’ which Wild Europe has run since 2012 in conjunction with local NGOs, involving international representation, economic feasibility assessment and enterprise implementation

December 2019

Czech Government supports wilderness enterprise initiative

Support has been received from the Czech government for Wild Europe’s enterprise initiative for Sumava National Park – the Wild Heart of Europe. This will be initiated by a feasibility study assessing opportunities for business related to wilderness areas in Sumava, designed to benefit local communities; it also proposes close links to the adjoining Bayerischer Wald NP in Germany.

Quote from Vice Minister Vladimir Dolejsky:

“I consider elaboration of this study very important not only for the development of the National Park Sumava region, but also in terms of future course of national parks in the Czech Republic in general” (Environment Ministry, Prague, September 2018)

The wild heart of Europe (Zdenka Krenova)

Wild Europe congratulates the Vice Minister for his vision, and we will do all we can to support this initiative.

We have been involved since 2012 at the invitation of local organizations, including Hnuti DUHA (Friends of the Earth Czech Republic) and the Czech Globe Institute, with a threefold programme that has included representation, economic appraisal (commissioning an independent study) and enterprise implementation.

There is potential for wider replication of this approach in Europe. For further information please contact info@wildeurope.org

Large Carnivore Management Best Practice

 

A study collating best practice on protection management of wolf, bear, lynx and wolverine in EU member states has been produced by the EC DG for Internal Policies (February 2018).

It was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the EP Committee on Petitions (PETI).

The legal framework for protection is reviewed under conditions of derogation, along with measures to promote coexistence and implications for management.

While populations are recovering, the Study concludes that significant further endeavour is required to recover fuller functionality across former ranges where ecological and spatial conditions remain favourable or can be restored.

Key findings:

  • Lethal control has little effect as a management measure
  • Hunting worsens the impact of intolerance, eg poaching
  • Wider dissemination of successful livestock management practices to mitigate conflict is crucial
  • Compensation must be linked to such practices, and not operated in isolation, to produce sustainable outcomes
  • More focus needed on promotion, communication and engagement of all stakeholders