Tag Archives: European Commission

European Parliament: High Level Conference about Virgin Forests Crisis in Romania

Romania hosts the largest tracts of virgin forests within the EU. But they are vanishing due to industrial logging, corruption and corporate greed. However, this major nature tragedy is almost unknown in wider Europe. Therefore, EuroNatur Foundation and Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green organised an expert conference in the European Parliament in Brussels on the 8th November. The conference was hosted by Thomas Waitz and Benedek Jávor, both Member of the European Parliament.

Benedek Jávor opened the conference with the words: “Virgin forests have a special importance in Europe, not only for biodiversity but also for ecosystem services… In Romania they are under huge pressure not only from illegal logging, but also from legal logging. Deforestation is closely related to corruption issues and problems with governance. Low level of governance and high level of corruption contribute to legal and illegal logging.”

Thomas Waitz then also  gave a clear introduction: “I am a forester, I’m not against logging as such.” He had been in Romania in May 2018 upon invitation from EuroNatur and Agent Green. During this trip he also talked to corporations and found out that forest areas are massively overlogged. In national parks the non-core protected areas, so called buffer zones should not be larger than 25% of the area. In Domogled National Park, which he also visited, the buffer zone is bigger than 50%. Only a third of the park’s forests are under strict protection. “There are rules how forestry interventions should look like. As I am a professional, I could see what sort of interventions they did.” But “…they are not even applying their own weak rules.”

Gabriel Paun, president of the NGO Agent Green, also pointed out, that the deliberate destruction of virgin forests and Natura 2000 sites is happening with support of the Romanian government. In 14 years only 10% of the mapped virgin forests (Pin Matra study in 2004) have been put into the National Catalogue of Virgin Forests.

Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur Foundation agreed that something is going wrong in Romania: “We consider this (National Catalogue) as a great tool… But we are wondering if it´s applied in the right way. And to be frank with you, sometimes I have the feeling that it´s not used really to protect those forests legally. But it´s is rather used to exclude as much as possible from it. And I have the question why only 21,000ha are inscribed in it, so many years after adopting this ministerial order” (in 2012).

Paun also said: “We put much hope after seeing the Bialowieza case that the EU will find ways to have a strong intervention to help save what´s left of our forests, which are also a European treasure.”

Humberto Delgado Rosa / EU-Commission: “Reports are unsettling, shocking and outrageous”

His hope will be supported as Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director of Natural Capital with DG Environment of the European Commission said: “You can see my presence as the proof that we do pay attention to this.” The reports by NGOs and media about logging of Romanian forests are “definitely a reason for EU concern. We do pay attention to his… We will monitor the situation as we did in Bialowieza. And we do have some new tools to monitor it better, including satellite technology…”

He stressed that “the reports by NGOs, the images and the presented documentaries about logging in Romania are unsettling, shocking and outrageous. He also made it clear that “all old growth forests” in Europe “require a non-intervention approach”.

With Natura 2000 sites there is a need for “better implementation…But the enforcement remains a challenge.” For the EU infringement procedure “We need some data gathering and we need to have some evidence that convinces us internally in the Commission.”

Sadly, Thomas Waitz added that the Romanian MEPs were invited to the conference, but none showed up: “as you can see… there is no Romanian MEP in the room. So it seems to be either a hurtful topic for them or they don´t care…”

Romanian EU-presidency: spotlight in the case

Gabriel Schwaderer concluded: “The Romanian virgin forests are vanishing while we speak. It´s a key European matter, thus EU involvement is crucial. The Romanian EU-presidency in 2019 will also give a spotlight on this case. We call on EU institutions to help and push to save this treasure. We see clear evidence of systematic violation of nature directives and call on EU institutions to act. He informed the audience that IUCN is also looking more deeply into the situation in Romania.

 

Raising the Alarm for Romanian Forests from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

MEP Benedek Jávor opening the conference…
Humberto Delgado Rosa, MEP Thomas Waitz, Gabriel Schwaderer and Gabriel Paun at the Conference about Virgin Forests in Romania
Humberto Delgado Rosan and MEP Thomas Waitz
Interested audience at the EP Conference about Virgin Forests in Romania

 

Spotlight on Vanishing Virgin Forests of Romania – Brussels, Nov. 8, 2018

The largest tracts of virgin forests within the EU are found in Romania. But due to industrial logging, corruption and corporate greed, this most valuable European natural heritage is rapidly vanishing. Forest destruction even occurs within national parks and Natura 2000 sites.

However, very few people are aware of this major nature crisis. Therefore, EuroNatur Foundation and Romanian environmental organisation Agent Green will come to Brussels to raise the alarm and deliver first hand evidence of the logging of virgin forests to both the European institutions and the public.

On November 8, 2018, EuroNatur and AgentGreen will create a “spotlight on vanishing virgin forests of Romania” in Brussels with the following events: 

Banner action in front of the European Commission building: Schuman square / roundabout, 8:00 – 9:00am.

Film screening “Out of Control” (video series about scandalous logging in Romania’s national parks) – and discussion. Kamilou in Mundo B (Rue d’Edimbourg, 26,
1050 Bruxelles), 19:00 – 21:00pm. Entry: free.

Please join us in Brussels in support of Europe’s last virgin forests and share!

And there will also be an expert conference “Europe‘s last virgin forests”, hosted by MEPs Thomas Waitz and Benedek Javor, in European Parliament, Room number ASP5E1. 15:00 – 17:00pm.  (Please note: participants need to register in advance: thomas.waitz-office@ep.europa.eu); deadline: November 2, 2018). Here you can download the invitation poster.

Urgent call on European Parliament: Burning trees is not climate friendly!

Members of the European Parliament have to prevent forest destruction for bioenergy profits

On 17th of January 2018 the European Parliament will vote on a law proposal promoting renewable energy in the period from 2021 to 2030. This is a crucial vote that will have an impact on the future direction of critical climate action and on the essential protection of the world’s precious forests.  It is targeted as a key measure to meet EU’s climate goals.  However, the logging and agriculture industry have been heavily lobbying the EU Commission to introduce their commercial interests at the core of the EU’s climate agenda. They claim that biomass is a renewable energy source which is carbon-dioxide neutral.

To the contrary, there is strong evidence that burning whole trees and food crops is not climate friendly and not sustainable.  The increasing EU demand for biomass as an energy source is driving forward large scale destruction of old growth forests both inside and outside the EU, making climate change worse and compromising efforts to ensure the essential transition to truly renewable and climate friendly resources.

Old growth and primeval forests store large amounts of carbon in biomass and soil through the absorption of carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere, often over centuries, if not thousands of years.  When they are logged and the trees are burned, enormous amounts of dangerous carbon-dioxide emissions are released into the atmosphere.  It will take centuries until the same amount of carbon will be stored in those forests again. So carbon neutrality only occurs in far future, well beyond the timeframe needed to meet our current emissions reduction commitments. This “climate therapy“ ends up being worse than the disease…

As a result of the hunger for bioenergy rainforests in tropical countries including in Indonesia are being destroyed at a breathtaking pace.  But tropical forests are not the only forests under threat.  In North America, Russia, Australia and Europe, where the biomass demand is increasing, carbon rich old growth and primeval forests are being eradicated along with their irreplaceable biodiversity.

In Europe, most old growth forests have been destroyed and only a fraction of what remains is protected.  Logging, in particular for bioenergy, is a major threat to our last “paradise forests”.  Most of them are located in Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Scandinavia and Russia. In all those countries, logging, both legal and illegal, is killing millions of old trees every year.

Besides logging, bioenergy is equally a problem when food crops, such as palm oil or rapeseed, are used to produce biofuels for cars and trucks. Indigenous communities, including in the Amazon are under existential pressure from palm oil plantations. They are being dispossessed of their ancestral forests and land. According to the NGO “Transport and Environment“ the Peruvian government has announced that it has the capacity to dedicate at least 1.5 million hectares of land to palm oil cultivation to meet rising global demand.

Burning solid biomass also has negative effects on air quality, as the FERN-report “Covered in smoke” highlights. Unfortunately the debate about this threat has been ignored by the European Commission in revising the EU’s renewable energy policy. New research for Fern by Dr Mike Holland, a leading independent air pollution expert, reveals the perilous effects on EU citizens’ health from burning solid biomass such as trees, as FERN explains in their report.

The research indicates that potentially tens of thousands of EU citizens are dying prematurely every year as a result of exposure to air pollution from burning biomass. There are also severe health impacts such as cancer, cardiac and respiratory complaints, asthma attacks and working days lost to ill health. According to FERN, Dr Holland has conducted an assessment of 27 biomass burning power plants in the EU. The analyses of Dr Holland shows that “more than 1,300 people are dying prematurely each year as a result of exposure to air pollution from the 27 facilities considered“.

“Given the drastic effect that biomass burning is already having on citizens’ health – as well as on forests and climate – the Parliament must abandon its current path, specifically by ending support for converting coal installations into biomass ones, and for burning biomass in large-scale inefficient installations. Only then will the EU have a renewable energy policy that respects the environment as well as its citizens’ health“, Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner at FERN, concludes.

More than 600 scientists signed a letter recently, urging “European legislators to amend the present directive to restrict eligible forest biomass to appropriately defined residues and wastes because the fates of much of the world’s forests and the climate are literally at stake“. In that letter they state: “The flaw in the directive lies in provisions that would let countries, power plants and factories claim credit toward renewable energy targets for deliberately cutting down trees to burn them for energy. The solution should be to restrict the forest biomass eligible under the directive to residues and wastes. (…) By 1850, the use of wood for bioenergy helped drive the near deforestation of western Europe even when Europeans consumed far less energy than they do today. Although coal helped to save the forests of Europe, the solution to replacing coal is not to go back to burning forests, but instead to replace fossil fuels with low carbon sources, such as solar and wind.“

Furthermore, 30 NGOs called on the European Parliament to support crucial changes to the proposed rules on bioenergy in the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive.

On the 17th of January, Members of the European Parliament have a unique opportunity to halt unsustainable bioenergy use, and encourage only truly renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. “Transport and Environment” runs a petition  where EU citizens can send a clear message to their MEPs that they don’t want their transport fuel, heat or electricity to be produced with bioenergy from harmful sources.

Video by FERN on CO2-emissions from bioenergy: