Canada is trying to water down forest trade regulations, leaked letter alleges

This story was originally published by The Guardian and appears here as part of the climatic table collaboration.

The Canadian government has been accused of putting its national logging industry before the global environment, following a leaked attempt to water down the world’s most ambitious regulations on deforestation-free trade.

Weeks before the United Nations biodiversity conference, COP15 in Montréalthe host nation sent a letter to the European Commission requesting a reconsideration of “cumbersome traceability requirements” within a proposed EU scheme that aims to eradicate unsustainably sourced wood products from the world’s largest market.

The letter from Canada’s ambassador to the EU, Ailish Campbell, also called for a “staged” approach that would delay implementation and a review of plans to include “degraded” forests among areas considered at risk.

Green lawmakers and conservation groups said the lobbying effort showed Justin Trudeau’s government gave its paper, lumber and wood-products industry more priority than its own. international commitment he made at last year’s Glasgow climate conference to “halt and reverse” forest loss and land degradation by 2030.

“You can see perfectly from this letter that Canada wanted to protect its economic interests rather than the forest,” he said. French MEP Marie Toussaint, one of the promoters of the new regulations. “For a country that is supposed to be in favor of conserving natural resources to say ‘don’t go so fast’ is surprising, especially when you will be fronting the biodiversity issue in Montreal in a couple of weeks.”

Toussaint, who is deputy leader of the Green group in parliament, said the proposed new regulations, which are in the final stages of negotiation this week between the European Commission, council and parliament, are designed to tighten checks and controls. about forest products to come. in the EU. This would include geolocation requirements so that buyers can know the exact origin of decking, furniture or paper lumber. Unlike previous measures, the draft does not focus solely on illegal deforestation, but also on legal and unsustainable practices.

It is an important step that shows that the EU is serious about the 2030 target, Toussaint said. “The EU can be proud. We are doing it in an ambitious way,” he said. “This is way overdue. For decades, we have tried to rely on voluntary reporting and commitments, but we can see that this has not worked.”

The US-based environmental advocacy group mighty land He said the proposed regulation was a potential turning point for forest protection because it would set a new global standard. “This legislation could be a game changer. It’s a shame that Canada is working to dismantle the most important forest law we’ve seen in the last decade,” said the group’s founder and chief executive, Glenn Hurowitz.

The negotiations are at a critical stage. After talks this week, a deal should be reached by the end of the year, but the level of ambition is in dispute. Sweden, another supposedly green nation with a large logging industry, is said to have raised concerns about some human rights clauses. Poland and Italy are reportedly reluctant to include rubber among the covered products. Others, such as Germany, Belgium and Slovenia, are staunch supporters of strict regulations.

Canada tried to water down forestry regulations weeks before hosting COP15, a leaked letter suggests. #COP15 #sustainability #forestry

Canada’s lobbying efforts are under particular scrutiny ahead of the Montreal conference, which will highlight the country’s green reputation as well as a darker environmental side. Canada it is a base for some of the world’s largest mining companies, including Belo Sun, which aims to open a huge gold deposit in the Amazon jungle. Canadian oil sands development in Alberta has also been widely criticized as being out of step with efforts to keep global warming to 1.5C to 2C above pre-industrial levels. The sustainability of the country’s forest products companies, such as Paper Excellence and Resolute, has also been questioned.

Campbell’s letter notes that the country’s annual deforestation rate is less than 0.2 percent, so Canada should be especially considered a “low risk” nation.

But reports indicate that some of the nation’s exports come from primary forests, which are far more important than secondary forests for biodiversity protection and carbon sequestration.

Environmental groups say the logging industry often cuts below the canopy, which is classified as “degradation” rather than “deforestation.” He has identified the fragmentation of remaining natural forests as a major threat to biodiversity, including the nutritional intake of caribou, which must now receive supplemental feeding from humans in an area because the lichens on which they typically depend are more scarce, in part as a result of industrial logging. The situation is worse in British Columbia, where the caribou population has declined from about 40,000 to 17,000 in the last century, the steepest decline in decades.

In the letter, Campbell insists that there is no agreed definition of degradation, so it should not be included in the new EU regulations. But the scientists insist that degraded lands should be included and industrial clearing of primary forests must stop to align with a climate-secure world.

Campbell, who has more experience in industry than in the environment, prioritized trade in his letter. “We are very concerned that some elements of the draft EU regulation on deforestation-free products will create significant trade barriers for Canadian exporters to the EU. In particular, the Regulation’s requirements will result in increased costs, added burdensome traceability requirements (for example, geolocation requirements), and risks that negatively affect trade, including more than T$1 billion worth of forest and agricultural products exported from Canada. to the EU,” he said. he wrote.

Hurowitz said Canada should agree to stricter controls and higher standards if it wants to live up to its green reputation, otherwise its call for “low risk” special treatment will smack of double standards for wealthy northern nations in compared to poorer tropical nations.

“Developed countries know how to speak the language of sustainability. Even when they’re bulldozing old-growth forest, they’re good at putting a green cap on it,” she said. “Trudeau presents himself as an environmentalist, but by pushing to weaken EU forest protection rules, he is aligning himself with people like [former president] Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Canada needs to decide whose side it is on.”

More trade-focused MEPs taking part in the negotiations expressed hope that Canada lives up to its green reputation. Christophe Hansen, secretary general of the Luxembourg Social Christian People’s Party, said the letter should not detract from the Montreal COP. “The fact that Canada is hosting the UN biodiversity conference does not preclude it from having concerns of its own, but I am confident that it will play its role as an honest broker and neutral host, as it has done many times before.”

The Canadian Foreign Office and the embassy to the EU have been contacted for comment.

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