7 - EU external action on forests: FLEGT and the development of international law  pp. 149-173

EU external action on forests: FLEGT and the development of international law

By Annalisa Savaresi

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The EU has long supported the adoption of a global forest convention, and since 2003 has worked with willing third countries to promote the verification of the legality of timber through its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. In recent years, negotiations over renewed commitments under the UNFCCC have drawn unprecedented attention to the role of forests in mitigating climate change. The EU has increasingly supported the inclusion of ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries’ (REDD) in negotiations on long-term cooperative action under the convention. This chapter analyses EU external action in the field, opening with a short overview of failed attempts to agree a legally binding international treaty on sustainable forest management. The focus will then turn to the FLEGT initiative and the bilateral approach the EU has put in place to ensure the legality of timber brought within its borders. The role of REDD is then analysed, with a view to illustrating how FLEGT and REDD might complement one another in stimulating action to achieve climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable development in the forest sector.

The lack of an international treaty on sustainable forest management

The international community has long striven to adopt an international instrument on forests. In the absence of such a tool, forest matters are addressed in a fragmented and uncoordinated manner by a large number of international and regional instruments. The lack of an overarching, hard-law instrument on the matter is particularly remarkable given that several states, and the EU in particular, have strongly supported the adoption of a global forest convention. The issue was high on the agenda at the UN Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. However, states only managed to agree two soft-law instruments, the Forest Principles and Chapter 11 of Agenda 21.

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