The potential role of the EU
The information presented in this brief calls for further research into the impact of EU consumption of charcoal and aquaculture products on forests and resulting emissions.
As part of its action plan aimed at combatting illegal logging and improving forest governance, the EU adopted the Timber Regulation. The Regulation, which became effective in 2013, prohibits operators in Europe from placing illegal timber and products on the EU market. 'Legal' timber is defined as timber produced in compliance with the laws of the country where it is harvested. There may be an opportunity to reduce emissions from charcoal production by including charcoal within the scope of the EU Timber Regulation. This would impose on European importers of charcoal the obligation to exercise due diligence to ensure that the charcoal was produced in compliance with the laws of the country of origin.
Also under this action plan, the EU entered into a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on forest law enforcement, governance and trade with Indonesia in 2014. VPAs are treaties that the EU makes with timber-producing countries that export timber and timber products to the EU. Under its VPA, Indonesia has developed a system to assure the legality of its timber. If charcoal were included within the scope of the VPA, it would be subject to this timber legality assurance system. This system requires consignments to be covered by a valid legality or sustainable forest management certificate, or a Suppliers Declaration of Conformity. Furthermore, the Indonesia-EU VPA not only covers products intended for export, but also the domestic market. Including charcoal under its realm could therefore lead to greater sustainability in its production and enhance legality and sustainability controls.
In Lao PDR and Vietnam, inclusion of charcoal within the scope of the VPA should also be considered, in particular in relation to forest and mangrove conversion. To better assess the potential role of the EU in reducing emissions resulting from charcoal production, further research on the scale and nature of charcoal production, including from mangroves, and of charcoal supply chains to the EU would be valuable.
Measures to encourage ‘mangrove-friendly’ aquaculture production and trade, including support for zero deforestation supply chain initiatives, low emissions development strategies and sustainability certification schemes, could also be considered. The adoption of these measures could reduce the role of EU consumption in driving emissions from mangrove clearance. More detailed assessment of the extent to which EU aquaculture imports are driving mangrove conversion would, however, be valuable.
In addition to direct action aimed at reducing emissions embedded in EU imports, efforts should be made to raise awareness of European consumers of the impacts of charcoal and aquaculture production on emissions. These efforts could trigger action to ensure the sustainability of these supply chains, which receive little public attention in comparison with those for timber, palm oil and other major forest-risk commodities.