Indicating positive developments in a number of areas, the Commission review highlighted also the need for greater efforts by the Member States to deliver to their commitments on implementing the Strategy and on the ground to translate the EU policies into action.
Already prior to the release of the Commission document, in mid July 2015 MEP Marc Demesmaeker (ECR, BE) was appointed rapporteur for an own initiative report by the European Parliament. Supported by the shadow rapporteurs Norbert Lins (EPP, DE), Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT), Catherine Bearder (ALDE, UK), Margrete Auken (Greens/EFA, DK) and others, the resolution was developed in the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), and accompanied by an Opinion by the Committee on Development (DEVE). Following the first reading in ENVI two days before Christmas Eve, the Plenary of the European Parliament adopted the final draft on 2 February 2016.
On a positive note from a forest owners’ perspective, the EP resolution includes a reference to its own resolution on the new EU Forest Strategy and the Forest Europe report entitled ‘State of Europe’s Forests 2015’. Further, it emphasises the importance of the agricultural and forestry sectors, contributing to preserving biodiversity in the context of the application of existing legislation. The MEPs underscore that biodiversity policies must be in full compliance with the principle of subsidiarity, so that regional differences in landscapes and habitats are fully respected. Most importantly, concerning Target 3 of the Strategy, the Plenary advocates for a multi-stakeholder approach which also actively involves and encourages farmers and forestry operators and calls for sustainable solutions together with both key sectors.
On the down-turn, the resolution also includes several aspects, which are not favourable from a forest owners’ perspective, including accepting the quality of the data being used in the State of Nature Report 2015 (SOER) which formed the basis of the mid-term review without question. Even though these assessments were not conducted consistently and coherently across the EU, not necessarily showing the real status of a specific habitat. According to the mid-term review, 80% of Europe’s forest habitats are considered unfavourable.
Most critically, the MEPs urge that social and environmental sustainability criteria for biomass production ought to be included in the new Renewable Energy Directive (RED), and they call for sustainability standards for all sectors in which biomass may be used, together with sustainable forest management criteria to ensure that bioenergy does not contribute to climate change or become an additional driver of land grabs and food insecurity. This call by the MEPs poses the risk that product based criteria and standards would affect sustainable forest management, without taking into account the holistic approach of SFM.
With its 91 items, the EP resolution touches upon a wide variety of aspects, including the Biodiversity Strategy’s headline target, as well as its six specific targets. Furthermore, it entails eight points on the Fitness Check of the Nature Directives and another 20, leading the way forward with additional measures.