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Commission steps up EU action to protect and restore world's #Forests

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The European Commission has adopted a comprehensive Communication setting out a new framework of actions to protect and restore the world's forests, which host 80% of biodiversity on land, support the livelihoods of around a quarter of the world's population, and are vital to our efforts to fight climate change.

The reinforced approach addresses both the supply and demand side of the issue. It introduces measures for enhanced international co-operation with stakeholders and member states, promotion of sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management, and targeted research and data collection. It also launches an assessment of possible new regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and forest degradation.

First Vice President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: “Forests are the green lungs of our planet, and we must care for them in the same way we care for our own lungs. We will not meet our climate targets without protecting the world's forests. The EU does not host the world's major primary forests on its territory, but our actions as individuals and our policy choices have a major impact. Today we send an important signal to our citizens and to our partners around the world that the EU is prepared to play a leadership role in this area in the next five years, and beyond.”

Vice President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said: “The world's forest cover continues to decrease at an alarming rate. With this Communication, we are stepping up EU action to protect existing forests better and manage forests sustainably. When we protect existing forests and increase forest cover sustainably, we safeguard livelihoods and increase the income of local communities. Forests also represent a promising green economic sector, with the potential to create between 10 and 16 million decent jobs worldwide. This Communication represents an important step forward in this regard.”

Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella added: "Stronger and more effective European action is needed to protect and restore forests because the situation remains fragile, despite efforts already made. Deforestation has a destructive effect on biodiversity, climate and economy."

International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica said: “We stand ready to work with partner countries to protect and sustainably manage forests across the world. This is about food security, water, climate change, resilience and peace. It's about building a more sustainable and inclusive world."

The ambitious European approach outlined today is a response to the continued widespread destruction of the world's forests; an area of 1.3 million square kilometres was lost between 1990 and 2016, equivalent to approximately 800 football fields every hour. The main drivers of this deforestation are demand for food, feed, biofuel, timber and other commodities.

Greenhouse gas emissions linked to deforestation are the second biggest cause of climate change, so protecting forests is a significant part of our responsibility to meet the commitments under the Paris Agreement. From an economic and social perspective, forests support the livelihoods of around 25 % of the global population, and they also embody irreplaceable cultural, societal and spiritual values.

The Communication adopted today has a two-fold objective of protecting and improving the health of existing forests, especially primary forests, and significantly increasing sustainable, biodiverse forest coverage worldwide. The Commission has set out five priorities:

  • Reduce the EU consumption footprint on land and encourage the consumption  of products from deforestation-free supply chains in the EU;
  • work in partnership with producing countries to reduce pressures on forests and to “deforest-proof” EU development co-operation;
  • strengthen international co-operation to halt deforestation and forest degradation, and encourage forest restoration;
  • redirect finance to support more sustainable land-use practices, and;
  • support the availability of, quality of, and access to information on forests and commodity supply chains, and support research and innovation.

Actions to reduce EU consumption and encourage the use of products from deforestation-free supply chains will be explored through the creation of a new Multi-Stakeholder Platform on Deforestation, Forest Degradation and Forest Generation, which will bring together a broad range of relevant stakeholders. The Commission will also encourage stronger certification schemes for deforestation-free products and assess possible demand-side legislative measures and other incentives.

The Commission will work closely with partner countries to help them to reduce pressures on their forests, and will ensure that EU policies do not contribute to deforestation and forest degradation. It will help partners develop and implement comprehensive national frameworks on forests, enhancing the sustainable use of forests, and increasing the sustainability of forest-based value chains. The Commission will also work through international fora - such as the FAO, the UN, the G7 and G20, the WTO and the OECD - to strengthen cooperation on actions and policies in this field. The Commission will continue to ensure that trade agreements negotiated by the EU contribute to the responsible and sustainable management of global supply chains, and encourage trade of agricultural and forest-based products not causing deforestation or forest degradation. The Commission will also develop incentive mechanisms for smallholder farmers to maintain and enhance ecosystem services and embrace sustainable agriculture and forest management.

To improve the availability and quality of information, and access to information on forests and supply chains, the Commission proposes the creation of an EU Observatory on Deforestation and Forest Degradation, to monitor and measure changes in the world's forest cover and associated drivers. This resource will give public bodies, consumers and businesses better access to information about supply chains, encouraging them to become more sustainable. The Commission will also explore the possibility of strengthening the use of the Copernicus satellite system for forest monitoring.

The Commission will focus on redirecting public and private finance to help to create incentives for sustainable forest management and sustainable forest-based value chains, and for conservation of existing and sustainable regeneration of additional forest cover. Together with the member states, the Commission will assess mechanisms with the potential to foster green finance for forests and further leverage and increase funding.

Background

The EU has a strong track record of global leadership in this area. Since 2003, the EU has been implementing the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan (FLEGT) to fight illegal logging and associated trade. A 2008 Commission Communication on deforestation set out the initial elements of an EU policy framework, including an EU objective to halt global forest cover loss by 2030 and to reduce gross tropical deforestation by 50 % by 2020. Despite its efforts, the EU objectives established in 2008 are unlikely to be met. Stronger efforts are therefore indispensable.

The Communication comes after extensive stakeholder consultations on deforestation and forest degradation and possible EU action. This included two conferences in 2014 and 2017, a public consultation in 2019, and three studies. The Communication also comes in response to repeated requests from the Council and European Parliament, calling for more coordinated action in particular via the elimination of deforestation from agricultural commodity chains.

Forests play a major role in the biggest sustainability challenges of our time, such as biodiversity decline, climate change and population increase. International agreements and commitments acknowledge the need for ambitious action to reverse the deforestation trend.

Emissions from land use and land use change, mostly due to deforestation, are the second largest cause of climate change (after fossil fuels), accounting for nearly 12 % of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than the transport sector. The world's forests store large amounts of carbon, which is drawn down from the atmosphere and stored in biomass and soil. Halting deforestation and forest degradation is therefore crucial to fight climate change. Sustainably restoring degraded forests and creating new forests can be an effective complementary measure to the efforts to halt deforestation. If properly planned and implemented in full respect for the principles of sustainability, such reforested areas can provide multiple benefits.

More information

Q&A

Factsheet

Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World's Forests

SWD on the consultation activities

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Boosting Offshore Renewable Energy for a Climate Neutral Europe

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To help meet the EU's goal of climate neutrality by 2050, the European Commission today presents the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy. The strategy proposes to increase Europe's offshore wind capacity from its current level of 12 GW to at least 60 GW by 2030 and to 300 GW by 2050. The Commission aims to complement this with 40 GW of ocean energy and other emerging technologies such as floating wind and solar by 2050.

This ambitious growth will be based on the vast potential across all of Europe's sea basins and on the global leadership position of EU companies in the sector. It will create new opportunities for industry, generate green jobs across the continent, and strengthen the EU's global leadership in offshore energy technologies. It will also ensure the protection of our environment, biodiversity and fisheries.

European Green Deal Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Today's strategy shows the urgency and opportunity of ramping up our investment in offshore renewables. With our vast sea basins and industrial leadership, the European Union has all that it needs to rise up to the challenge. Already, offshore renewable energy is a true European success story. We aim to turn it into an even greater opportunity for clean energy, high quality jobs, sustainable growth, and international competitiveness.”

Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson said: “Europe is a world leader in offshore renewable energy and can become a powerhouse for its global development. We must step up our game by harnessing all the potential of offshore wind and by advancing other technologies such as wave, tidal and floating solar. This Strategy sets a clear direction and establishes a stable framework, which are crucial for public authorities, investors and developers in this sector. We need to boost the EU's domestic production to achieve our climate targets, feed the growing electricity demand and support the economy in its post-COVID recovery.”

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “Today's strategy outlines how we can develop offshore renewable energy in combination with other human activities, such as fisheries, aquaculture or shipping, and in harmony with nature. The proposals will also allow us to protect biodiversity and to address possible socio-economic consequences for sectors relying on good health of marine ecosystems, thus promoting a sound coexistence within the maritime space.”

To promote the scale-up of offshore energy capacity, the Commission will encourage cross-border cooperation between member states on long term planning and deployment. This will require integrating offshore renewable energy development objectives in the National Maritime Spatial Plans which coastal states are due to submit to the Commission by March 2021. The Commission will also propose a framework under the revised TEN-E Regulation for long-term offshore grid planning, involving regulators and the member states in each sea basin.

The Commission estimates that investment of nearly €800 billion will be needed between now and 2050 to meet its proposed objectives. To help generate and unleash this investment, the Commission will:

  • Provide a clear and supportive legal framework. To this end, the Commission today also clarified the electricity market rules in an accompanying Staff Working Document and will assess whether more specific and targeted rules are needed. The Commission will ensure that the revisions of the state aid guidelines on energy and environmental protection and of the Renewable Energy Directive will facilitate cost-effective deployment of renewable offshore energy.
  • Help mobilize all relevant funds to support the sector's development. The Commission encourages Member States to use the Recovery and Resilience Facility and work together with the European Investment Bank and other financial institutions to support investments in offshore energy through InvestEU. Horizon Europe funds will be mobilized to support research and development, particularly in less mature technologies.
  • Ensure a strengthened supply chain. The strategy underlines the need to improve manufacturing capacity and port infrastructure and to increase the appropriately skilled workforce to sustain higher installation rates. The Commission plans to establish a dedicated platform on offshore renewables within the Clean Energy Industrial Forum to bring together all actors and address supply chain development.

Offshore renewable energy is a rapidly growing global market, notably in Asia and the United States, and provides opportunities for EU industry around the world. Through its Green Deal diplomacy, trade policy and the EU's energy dialogues with partner countries, the Commission will support global uptake of these technologies.

To analyze and monitor the environmental, social and economic impacts of offshore renewable energy on the marine environment and the economic activities that depend on it, the Commission will regularly consult a community of experts from public authorities, stakeholders and scientists. Today, the Commission has also adopted a new guidance document on wind energy development and EU nature legislation.

Background

Offshore wind produces clean electricity that competes with, and sometimes is cheaper than, existing fossil fuel-based technology. European industries are fast developing a range of other technologies to harness the power of our seas for producing green electricity. From floating offshore wind, to ocean energy technologies such as wave and tidal, floating photovoltaic installations and the use of algae to produce biofuels, European companies and laboratories are currently at the forefront.

The Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy sets the highest deployment ambition for offshore wind turbines (both fixed-bottom and floating), where commercial activity is well advanced. In these sectors, Europe has already gained unrivalled technological, scientific and industrial experience and strong capacity already exists across the supply chain, from manufacturing to installation.

While the Strategy underlines the opportunities across all of the EU's sea basins – the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic – and for certain coastal and island communities, the benefits of these technologies are not limited to coastal regions. The Strategy highlights a broad range of inland areas where manufacturing and research is already supporting offshore energy development.

More information

Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy

Staff Working Document on the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy

Memo (Q&A) on the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy

Factsheet on the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy

Factsheet on Offshore Renewable Energy and key technologies

Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy webpage

 

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New EU industrial strategy: The challenges to tackle

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MEPs want the EU's future industrial strategy to help businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis and face the digital and environmental transitions. Find out how.

European enterprises have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many have had to shut or reduce their workforce while finding new ways to work within new restrictive measures. Before making the necessary digital and green transitions,  industry  in the EU needs to recover from the pandemic.

During the November plenary, MEPs are set to reiterate their call for the European Commission to revise its March 2020 proposal on the EU's new industrial strategy. In a draft report adopted on 16 October, the members of the industry, research and energy committee demanded a shift in the EU approach to industrial policy in the wake of the pandemic by helping businesses cope with the crisis and face the digital and environmental transitions.

How the Parliament foresees the EU's industry landscape

Industry represents more than 20% of the EU’s economy and employs about 35 million people, with many millions more jobs linked to it at home and abroad. In addition it accounts for 80% of goods exports. The EU is also a top global provider and destination for foreign direct investment.

In the context of the new industrial strategy, the EU should enable companies to contribute to its climate-neutrality targets - as outlined in the Green Deal road map - support firms, particularly small and medium enterprises in the transition to a digital and carbon-neutral economy and help create high-quality jobs, without undermining the EU’s competitiveness.

According to MEPs; such a strategy should consist of two phases: a recovery phase to consolidate jobs, reactivate production and adapt to a post-COVID period; followed by reconstruction and industrial transformation.

Read about the main EU measures to kick-start the economic recovery.

Empowering smaller firms to achieve sustainable growth

Small and medium-sized enterprises are the backbone of the EU economy, accounting for more than 99% of all European business. The industrial strategy should focus on them, as many have contracted debts due to national coronarivus measures, reducing their investment capacity, which is likely to trigger sluggish growth in the long-term.

Helping industry recover from the socio-economic crisis

The COVID Recovery Fund is part of the first phase in responding to the emergency and should be distributed according to the level of damage suffered, challenges faced and amount of financial support already received through national aid schemes.

Preference should be given to companies and smaller firms oriented towards the digital and environmental transformation and thus investing in environmentally sustainable activities.

MEPs want to:

  • Ensure that the green and digital transitions are fair and socially just and are followed by initiatives to train workers.
  • Create a new impact assessment of the potential costs and burdens of the transition for European companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Make sure that state aid provided in the emergency phase does not lead to permanent distortions in the single market.
  • Bring strategic industries back to the EU.

Investing in greener, digital and innovative enterprises

During the second phase, the industrial strategy should ensure competitiveness, resilience and long-term sustainability. Goals include:

  • Focusing on the social aspects of the structural change.
  • Revitalizing territories that rely on fossil fuels using the Just Transition Fund, which is part of the EU's climate finance plan.
  • Ensuring EU subsidies go to environmentally sustainable companies and enhancing sustainable financing to companies in the decarbonisation process.
  • Using the Border Carbon Adjustments mechanism to help protect EU manufacturers and jobs from unfair international competition.
  • Having a research-based pharmaceutical industry and a medicine shortage risk mitigation plan.
  • Exploiting the circular economy, privileging the "energy efficiency first" principle, energy savings and renewable energy technologies.
  • Using gas to transition away from fossil fuels and hydrogen as a potential breakthrough technology.
  • Investing in artificial intelligence and implementing a single European digital and data market, building a better digital taxation system and developing European standards on cybersecurity.
  • Investing more in research and development.
  • Revising EU antitrust rules to ensure global competitiveness.

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Boosting offshore renewable energy for a Climate Neutral Europe

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To help meet the EU’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050, the European Commission today (19 November) presents the EU Strategy on Offshore Renewable Energy and proposes ambitious new targets for the development of this important European industry and energy source. Future growth will be based on the vast potential across all of Europe’s sea basins and on the global leadership position of European companies in the sector.

A press releaseQ&A, two factsheets on the Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy and key offshore renewable energy technologies, and a video are available online.

European Green Deal Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson are holding a press conference on the above issue, which you can follow live on EbS.

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