Binding legislation needed to stop EU-driven global deforestation, say MEPs

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


MEPs call on the Commission to put forward rules to stop EU-driven global deforestation through mandatory due diligence for companies placing products on the EU market.

Currently, there is no EU legislation prohibiting products that contribute to the destruction of forests from being placed on the European market and consumers do not know whether or not the products they buy contribute to deforestation.

Therefore, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee adopted a report today with 45 votes to 11 and 25 abstentions calling on the Commission to present an EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation. This is the first time the committee will make use of the possibility in the Treaty for Parliament to ask the Commission to come forward with binding legislation.

Mandatory measures needed to halt deforestation

MEPs say that voluntary initiatives, third-party certification and labels have so far failed to halt deforestation worldwide.

They therefore call for a new EU legal framework based on mandatory due diligence, reporting, disclosure and third party participation requirements. Penalties should be introduced for companies that place products on the EU market derived from commodities that endanger forests and ecosystems. All operators on the EU market must ensure that their products can be traced to be able to identify their origin and ensure the rules are enforced.

The report refers to several studies showing that prohibiting the entry into the EU of products linked to deforestation will have no impact on volume and price and that any extra costs incurred by operators would be minimal. It would also benefit businesses, as it would level the playing field by holding competitors to the same standards.

MEPs state that such an EU legal framework should also be extended to include high-carbon stock and biodiversity-rich ecosystems other than forests, such as marine and coastal ecosystems, wetlands, peatlands or savannahs, to avoid pressure being shifted onto these landscapes. The Commission should also provide binding definitions of what constitutes deforestation and forest degradation.

Members finally underlined how EU trade and investment policy should include binding and enforceable sustainable development chapters that fully respect international commitments.

Quote

After the vote, the rapporteur Delara Burkhardt (S&D, DE) said: “Everyone agrees that voluntary measures to halt and reverse global deforestation have failed. The adoption of this report gives us the chance to create a functioning and fair framework, based on mandatory due diligence. It is another important step towards halting and reversing EU-driven global deforestation.”

Next steps

Parliament will vote on this report during the 19 – 22 October plenary session.

Background

Since 1990, 1.3 million km2 of forests have been lost – an area larger than South Africa. Reversing deforestation is key to protecting biodiversity, creating carbon sinks and sustainably supporting local communities. It is estimated that EU consumption represents around 10 % of global deforestation with palm oil, meat, soy, cocoa, eucalyptus, maize, timber, leather and rubber among the main drivers of deforestation.

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