Forests cover around 30% of the Earth’s land area providing priceless ecological, economic, social and health benefits at local, national and global levels. We rely on forests for wood, energy, food and medicine. Forests are pillars of their communities creating jobs, providing shelter and holding cultural, social and spiritual values. Forests perform key ecosystem services such as contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation, preventing desertification and soil erosion, alleviating the effects of natural disasters, cleaning the air and water and protecting biodiversity.
Worldwide, around 1.6 billion people, including 2000 indigenous cultures, depend on forests for their livelihoods. Sustainable management of this valuable resource is crucial – and it is just as vital for the society as a whole, as forests contribute at least €180 billion per year to the world economy.
Forests have long been vulnerable to a number of threats and are today closer than ever to a critical tipping point. Alongside natural challenges such as droughts, wildfires and diseases, forest cover is decreasing at dangerous levels due to illegal logging, deforestation and forest degradation.
The EU has been supporting the efforts of partner countries to preserve their forests and to contribute to sustainable, inclusive economies and societies. Between 2014 and 2020, EU development cooperation funding invested more than €650 million to support forest-related programmes in partner countries. We are successfully supporting the flagship initiatives ECOFAC, and the fight against climate change through UN-REDD+ and EUROCLIMA+.
Illegal logging - 'FLEGT'
The EU policy to fight illegal logging and associated trade was defined in 2003 with the Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. The FLEGT Action Plan includes a wide range of measures aimed at bringing together governments and stakeholders to address jointly illegal logging and its associated trade. The keystone of this approach is the Voluntary Partnership Agreements concluded between the EU and interested Partner countries that aim at a transformational change by addressing the root causes of illegal logging and ensuring trade in legally and sustainably harvested timber. The Directorate-General for International Partnerships is currently negotiating and implementing VPAs with 10 partner countries.
In the face of alarming threats from deforestation and forest degradation in the EU and globally, the Commission issued in 2019 a Communication to step up the efforts to protect and restoring the world’s forests. The Communication addresses the EU consumption of deforestation and forest degradation linked products and proposes to work in partnership with producer countries to reduce pressures on forests.
The EU is furthermore countering the trade in illegally harvested timber and timber products – EU timber regulation - by prohibiting the entry on the EU market of illegally harvested timber and requiring EU traders who place timber products on the EU market for the first time to exercise 'due diligence'.
In view of the multi-functional role of forests, Forest Partnerships will address forests in a comprehensive and integrated way and taking into account the specific needs of local communities and indigenous peoples. Their objective will be to protect, restore and ensure the sustainable use and management of forests, promote good forest governance, strengthen forest-based value chains, stimulate stable and legal business environments and ensure the sustainability of trade in forest products and other commodities that drive deforestation.
The Forest Partnerships will deliver on the European Green Deal priorities as well as EU’s development cooperation objectives including poverty alleviation and human rights and contribute to addressing the EU international commitments, notably in the context of the REDD+ mechanisms under the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC), the Convention on Biodiversity, the UN declaration on forest and its own policy framework such as the EU FLEGT Action Plan and the Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world's forests.
Find out more:
The EU hosts several facilities that supports policies and works with partner countries.
VPA AFRICA-LATIN AMERICA Facility
EU REDD Facility
The REDD Facility supports developing countries to improve land-use governance as part of their efforts to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.
EU Forest for the Future Facility
The Forest for the Future Facility focuses on Forest Partnerships to contribute to healthy forest ecosystems in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.
The Tenure Facility
The Tenure Facility offers grants and technical assistance directly to indigenous peoples and local communities in their efforts to secure tenure, with a particular focus on mitigating climate change, reducing conflict and promoting gender equality.