Tag Archives: FERN

Large majority in EU supports call for better global forest protection, new poll shows

Among all EU citizens, Romanians show strongest attachment to forests and their protection

On May 21, 2019, the international non governmental organization Fern (Brussels) published a new YouGov survey documenting the very high importance of forest conservation for the EU population: 87 percent of EU respondents favour new laws to combat global forest destruction.

The majority of respondents say that neither their national governments (66 percent) nor the EU (61 percent) do enough to fight global deforestation. 91% of Europeans and 96% of people in Romania are concerned about forests and wildlife. 88% of respondents in Romania said that their government is not doing enough to combat global forest destruction.

Romanians show a clear lead with 82% of people “strongly agree” with the statement “I really care about forests & wildlife”— by far the highest in the EU, noticeably higher than other countries.

Also, in Romania, 86% of people “strongly agree” with the statement “Deforestation is harmful to the people and wildlife that live in the affected areas”.  This is a much higher score than in other countries, suggesting most Romanians are very much aware of and concerned about the enormous level of forest destruction occurring in their country.

In Slovakia, where forest destruction is also a major issue in the public, it was 69% of people agreeing with this statement, one of the highest in the EU (alongside Bulgaria and Spain)

This results show that people are much more eager to care about forests when they actually still have them in their country – as in Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, which still have significant tracts of natural forests. 

Furthermore, the numbers went  strongly against the common stereotype that it is only “wealthier” people who care about the environment: the countries with the lowest levels of people saying they “strongly agreed” with “I really care about forest & wildlife” were German, the Netherlands, and Denmark. 

Also, in massively forested but wealthy countries like Sweden or Finland, the numbers were much lower than in forested but poorer countries like Romania, Slovakia & Bulgaria.  

On 6th of May, the UN’s World Biodiversity Council – IPBES had cited climate protection as being of equally important than biodiversity preservation and restoration – in a seminal report warning about the threat of mass extinction and loss of natural ecosystems.

The IPBES results and the poll responses make clear, with a view to the forthcoming EU elections, that forest conservation is a an important piece of homework for the EU and its policies. 

Thus it is very important to participate in the election to the European Parliament and to strengthen environmental protection and nature conservation in the EU.


Romania hosts the largest natural forest remains within the EU, but no sufficient action is taken neither by the Romanian government nor by the EU to stop the progressing logging bulldozers…





Romania: How „woodchippers“ threaten natural forests and help with laundering of illegal logging


EU forests increasingly threatened by “bioenergy” – Fern report

Agent Green” investigator Andrei Ciurcanu could hardly believe what he found  in the middle of Romania’s Rodna National Park: A fully automatic wood chipper machine, cutting trees and instantly chopping them into little wood chips to be sold to „bioenergy“ industry. I’ts not logs any more leaving the national park, but many many unmarked (and therefore uncontrollable) pieces of wood. This makes it even more easy to launder illegal logging. Wood chips mainly end up being burned in the bioenergy sector – entering the atmosphere as carbon emissions and intensifying the climate crisis.

According to the new report „EU Forests in Danger“ by the NGO Fern bioenergy industry is becoming the number one threat to Europe´s natural forest remains. The EU wood processing industry is heavily pushing for the increased use of wood (also directly from forests, not just from wood waste) for energy purposes. They claim this is good for „climate protection“.

However, numerous scientists and environmentalists counter this by arguing that burning trees leads to increased carbon emissions and thus adds to the climate crisis. Regrowth of forests happens too slow to compensate the emissions in time. Therefore they call for improved protection of intact forests and expansion of woodlands – rather than logging and replacing natural forests with plantations.

Woodchipper in Romania’s Rodna National Park

Back to Rodna National Park. Agent Green Investigator Andrei Ciurcanu says, the use of this wood chipping device proves it being likely that illegal practices still happen on large scale, even in the forests of a national park. The wood thieves just use the official system of traceability (SUMAL) and its weaknesses: Romania still doesn’t have an online registry of logging depots, thus it is very easy to use the depots as a laundering places for getting illegal Wood out. In this case not only the depots are used to launder the illegal wood, but also to transform illegally cut trees into unrecognizable wood chips. Then the wood could be sold to wood processing or trading companies with official papers, giving the appearance of legality.

Woodchipper in an Romanian national park: illegally cut trees transformed into wood chips, right in the middle of the protected forest…

În Parcul Național Munții Rodnei lemnul tăiat ilegal este tocat și apoi vândut firmelor de procesare from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

Official investigations found illegal practices

The official investigations led by Romanian authorities (Forest Guard inspectors) in the area where the chipper was present revealed that a Romanian logging company was authorised by a Private Forest District to enter the National Park and received legal permits for „accidental logging“ (trees affected by windstorms and landslides).

Thus, the timber quality is medium or low. However, the investigators discovered that the company employees logged not only damaged trees but cleared the whole area. They found 91 stumps without a the sign for legal logging approval (hammer). The overall loss was equivalent to more than 10.000 euros. The illegally harvested wood was afterwards mixed with other logs and sold or transformed into woodchips. They attached papers, as if the timber was sold from a depot.

But the Investigators not only discovered illegally cut stumps. They also found out that in the Lala region (where the chipper was filmed) not one legal depot was authorized by the Romanian institutions. So all the papers used for transporting and selling of the wood chips were obviously forged.

In brief: the woodchipper was obviously also used to transform illegally cut trees into wood chips. The growing market for „biomass“ could make fishy practices like this more attractive and lead to additional forest destruction.

Basically the logging and transport company apparently wanted to avoid registration of the woodchips with the Romanian SUMAL System. This requires a mandatory online registration of all transports of logged wood from the forest to a processing factory or a depot located outside the forest with a unique SUMAL online code. They used only accompanying documents pretending that the wood was transported from a depot to a factory, which does not require an online code according to SUMAL and the romanian legislation.

This trick was intentional to hide the origin of the wood. In case of a police control it would have been impossible to see whether the wood was legally cut or not. During routine control the police only sees that the transport appears to be legal because it is accompanied by official papers.

The illegal logging is investigated now by the prosecutor and there is an ongoing penal investigation. Romanian TV reported about this case.

Which companies appear to be involved?

The official investigation led by forest inspectors revealed that the woodchips were made by a chipper owned by a company named Austroforest and the transport by Frasinul Ltd, both owned by a businessman called Traian Larionesi, important partner for Holzindustrie Schweighofer. His name is connected to different corruption cases investigated by the Anti Corruption Department in Romania. The forest inspectors also found out that the woodchips were sold by Frasinul to the big Austrian timber processing company Egger. The company runs Romania’s largest biomass power plant (83 Megawatt) in Radauti , where Egger also operates a huge sawmill. 

We complain about forest destruction worldwide.
But what about protection of forests on our own doorstep?

The EU in general is supporting programs to protect forests globally, through development aid, innovative trade work such as the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan, and commitments to end EU consumption of goods that cause agricultural deforestation. Officials from all over the EU have been supporting calls on countries hosting large forest areas such as Brazil, Indonesia, DRC or Russia to halt excessive logging.

New report by Fern: EU Forests in Danger

But at the same time, less than one per cent or the EU’s forests are still in a primeval or very natural status. And many of these stands are not sufficiently protected. Even in the EU’s Natura 2000 sites old growth and virgin forests are being logged – legally and illegally. A substantial share of the harvested timber from EU’s last natural forest stands ends up in bioenergy industry. The NGO Fern published the report „EU Forests in Danger“ about the progressing loss of Europe´s last natural forests. Country reports from 11 EU member states (including Romania, Slovakia or Sweden) draw an alarming picture. Final conclusion: „we must also protect the natural and old-growth forests on our own doorstep“.


Save our Paradise Forests now! from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

See the full episode about the case of Rodna national park from the “Out of Control” series:

OUT OF CONTROL || Case #5 || Rodna Mountains National Park from AGENT GREEN on Vimeo.

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: