Channel 4 exposes FSC’s lobbying for weakening EU forest biomass rules

Demand for biomass, for example for the massive Drax power station in the UK, is driving forest destruction. Drax used to burn coal. Now it burns wood pellets. This week Channel 4 looked at the link between clearcutting in Estonia and increasing demand for biomass.

Channel 4 points out that most wood pellets come from sawdust and offcuts. But not all. “Some wood is coming straight from forests.” The logging is having a devastating effect on Estonia’s forests. Only 2% of Estonia’s remaining forests are old-growth.

The EU is currently working on legislation to implement its “European Green Deal”. The legislation will include the revision of the 2009 Renewable Energy Directive (RED), a disastrous policy that encourages burning forests in power plants.

Channel 4 found that FSC was lobbying the EU to weaken its rules:

The Forest Stewardship Council or FSC supposedly acts as a watchdog setting rules which are meant to protect these areas of high biodiversity. But here, it failed to do so in time and then certified the wood from these clear-cuts as sustainable. And our investigation has revealed that the FSC, rather than trying to protect these habitats, appears to be lobbying EU lawmakers to weaken protections for biodiversity. We’ve seen private correspondence between the FSC and European officials suggesting that the wording of new rules be changed, removing restrictions which protect critical habitats and the wildlife in them.

FSC told Channel 4 that it “consistently advocates for the strongest possible sustainability criteria”. The email from FSC to European officials proves that this is simply not the case. FSC is lobbying against EU legislation to protect biodiversity and in favour of clear-cuts:

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Following up on the conversation below, please find FSC’s comments on the draft implementing act on the guidance for implementing/verifying the REDII criteria for forest biomass:

– FSC endorses the approach of relying on robust external standards including first, second, and third party auditing also meeting strict sustainability criteria set by the EU legislator.

– FSC FM and COC standards can provide detailed and verifiable information of the content stemming from articles 4-6, for all themes by carbon. The carbon stock calculations of 6.1 (b-e) incl. compliance against national LULUCF/AFOLU MRV systems is currently not systematically and of-the-shelf available services provided in most jurisdictions. Effectively, countries that does not comply with 5(i), will not be able to access EU markets.

– Article 4.1 (b)(ii): we propose the following amendment: “forest regeneration is carried out in a manner that at least maintains the quality and quantity of the harvested forest areas, including by ensuring that the forest is allowed a regeneration period of at least five years after the harvesting operation; and there is no biodiversity degradation in the regenerated forest area, including that primary forests and natural or semi-natural forests are not degraded to or replaced with plantation forests“. This new paragraph seems to proposes new measures going beyond REDII.

– Article 4, paragraph 1, b, iv: clear-cuts may be appropriate silvicultural treatment for some forest types and in selected instances. We would recommend avoiding specific reference to clear-cuts and include an example of management prescriptions.

We remain available for a short call to further explain our suggestions. Should you need further info\data, do not hesitate to contact us.

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One comment

  1. FSC’s response to the Channel 4 piece is here.

    The EU wrote back to FSC to ask why FSC wanted to weaken its regulation: “I would expected such request from some member states or industry that oppose higher environmental ambition, not by a NGO-supported certification schemes such as FSC.” And the EU asked, “Don’t you consider the risk of conversion from primary forests toplantations serious?”

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