Wednesday

23rd Jan 2019

Opinion

Parliament's rainforest vote is a challenge for Macron

  • Deforestation. Chopping down millennial rainforests is deeply unsustainable (Photo: crustmania)

This week the European Parliament sent a globally important message to France to halt plans that endanger our planet's climate.

The environmental credentials president Emmanuel Macron rose to power on are already looking tattered despite his famed promise to "Make the Planet Great Again".

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  • Emmanuel Macron came to power partly on a slogan of "Make the Planet Great Again" - a green riposte to Donald Trump (Photo: Consilium)

Following the shock departure of environment minister Nicolas Hulot, live on radio last month, and Macron's failure to prevent Total's La Mede refinery producing biofuel from imported palm oil linked to deforestation, the tone set by the president's campaign slogan is starting to sour.

And now, France's AFD development agency is poised to support the expansion of highly damaging industrial logging in the second largest rainforest in the world, across the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This, despite recent revelations from Global Witness that expanding industrial logging in DRC's rainforest could generate 35m tonnes of extra CO2 emissions per year.

That's the equivalent of another 8.7 coal-fired power plants – or all of Denmark's carbon emissions for 2014. It is a move that goes against the spirit of international climate commitments made by France – before and since Macron.

And alongside the climate damage this kind of deeply unsustainable chopping down of millennial rainforests would cause, the people of DRC living in these forests are also forgotten.

While France champions the right of free, prior and informed consent of the local communities, communities cannot choose freely when the promise of access to health and education is made entirely conditional on accepting logging operations within forests on which they are reliant for their livelihoods.

So what's the prospect of change? This week the European Parliament has made clear that European donor funds should not be used for industrial logging in intact rainforests, sending a clear message to France and other member states.

On Tuesday, MEPs voted on the EU's global forest protection policies (the Hautala report), including its approach to industrial logging of climate-critical intact forest landscapes (like the Amazon or Congo Basin).

The report calls on the commission and member states to coordinate donor policies to ensure that funds are not used to support the expansion of industrial-scale logging into intact tropical forests.

MEPs have also backed demands for the EU to adopt a new deforestation action plan and bring forward regulation to tackle forest loss linked to agricultural commodities to ensure that EU supply chains and financial transactions do not cause deforestation, forest degradation, or human rights violations.

Despite failings in other areas, to their credit, France has been championing ideas for this new action plan. All eyes are now on the European commission as we await long overdue action on this agenda.

This vote could not just mark a step change in the EU's global role in forests protection to prevent climate change – but also give president Macron and his government the opportunity to show they mean it when they say we need to protect the planet and make this the centrepiece of global environmental action.

Jo Blackman is senior campaigner at Global Witness

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