French tree-planting plan brought before the European Commission

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In a 38-page legal letter sent to the European Commission (1), the Canopée association points out the deviations of the forestry section of the recovery plan from European objectives to preserve biodiversity and combat climate change.

For Bruno Doucet, the association's campaigns manager Canopy : " Behind the symbolism of tree-planting, the government has in fact embarked on a vast operation to support clear-cutting and the afforestation of our forests. ".
French President Emmanuel Macron's promise to plant "two trees for every French person", i.e. 140 million trees, could lead to the destruction of 46,000 hectares of healthy forests if these plantings are carried out under the same conditions as the stimulus plan. That's right, 42% of the projects financed by the stimulus plan concern projects in healthy forests, and 87% of the operations are clear-cuts. Planting 50 million trees represents 45,000 hectares, and 140 million trees, 126,000 hectares. Applying the same ratio, 46,040 hectares of healthy forest could be cleared (126,000 * 42% * 87%).

Financed to the tune of 40% by the European Union, the French recovery plan, adopted in 2020, is supposed to ensure that no measures cause significant harm to environmental objectives.

As the report " Planted! The hidden results of the forestry recovery plan "The first 50 million trees to be planted in the forestry sector have already had a number of negative impacts:

  • 87% of projects financed at the end of 2021 by the stimulus plan involve clear-cutting (2). These are major operations that weaken ecosystems and lead to immediate carbon depletion;
  • No environmental impact assessment has been carried out, particularly in Natura 2000 areas where 25% of the projects are located;
  • Most plantations are monocultures, with very little diversity. With just over 6,000 hectares, Douglas fir is the most widely planted tree, even though it is not particularly well adapted to climate change.

France also made a commitment to the European Commission to integrate biodiversity criteria into forest management plans by 2021. An unfulfilled commitment. As part of the ongoing revision of the rules governing private forest management, this commitment was deliberately set aside by the government.

This letter is yet another warning to the European Commission, which has noted the weaknesses of the forestry section of the French national strategic plan for the CAP 2023-2027. In a mail addressed to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Julien Denormandie, it points to the need to clarify "the sustainable forestry strategy", the poor state of conservation of French forests and the decline in the forest carbon sink.

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Canopée is calling on the European Commission to suspend its support for France until the government has integrated sound environmental criteria into its forestry policy.

(1) https://www.canopee-asso.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/Canopee_Lettre-manquement-FranceRelance-engagement-europeen.pdf
(2) These figures are based on an interim assessment at the end of 2021.

Header photo Example of a clear cut (Photo credit: Jean-Luc Pillard for Canopée)

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