EU called upon to do much more to protect forests, natural ecosystems and human rights

The European Union is degrading forests and using up the world’s resources at a hugely disproportionate and unfair rate – if the rest of the planet consumed at the same level, we’d need nearly three planets to meet the demand.

Although accounting for just seven per cent of the world’s population with approximately 513.5 million citizens, the EU uses almost 20 per cent of its natural resources, or ‘biocapacity’.

Our collective resource consumption includes huge amounts of land and sea needed to produce resources such as crops, pasture for livestock, fibres for paper, building materials, fossil fuels and areas needed to absorb our vast amount of waste.

Land cleared for oil palm in Muara Tae, Indonesia (c) EIAimage

Natural old growth forests are home to 80 per cent of the world’s species, provide subsistence and incomes for millions of people and are also crucial for mitigating climate change.

However, many commodities such as palm oil, soy and or beef are produced by cutting forests down to the ground and in violation of human rights.

That’s why today, we and our NGO partners have released a new briefing – Protecting forests, natural ecosystems and human rights: a case for EU action – calling on the EU to take action.

On 23 July 2019, the EU published an official communication, Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests, in which it acknowledged the damage its consumption is inflicting on the planet.

A recent YouGov poll, commissioned by ourselves and partner NGOs, revealed that 87 per cent of those polled across 25 EU countries agreed new laws are needed to ensure the products sold in the bloc do not contribute to global deforestation.

A group of Indonesians, mainly children, in a forest

Children of the Knasaimos in West Papua (c) EIAimage

Dr Vanessa Richardson, EIA Forests Campaigner, said: “It’s about time supply chains linked to the EU market are sustainable, free from deforestation and forest degradation and comply with international standards and obligations on human rights, including the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities – they’re the best guardians of the forests.

“It’s encouraging to see the EU own up to the scale of the problem – now we need to see it seize this opportunity and take action to reverse this unfair equation.”

In today’s briefing, we and our eight partners are collectively calling on the EU to:

  • adopt new legislation requiring companies to conduct due diligence throughout their supply chains to identify, prevent and mitigate environmental, social and human rights risks and impacts, ensuring they are sustainable, free from deforestation and in compliance with international standards and obligations on human rights;
  • introduce due diligence requirements on financial institutions to ensure that EU finance and banking sectors are in no way linked to deforestation or human rights violations;
  • strengthen cooperation with producer and other consumer countries to address deforestation and human rights issues;
  • improve existing policy measures and implementation of existing legislation, with a view to making sure EU policies do not create negative incentives for the environment or people;
  • ensure the EU and its member states live up to all of its social and environmental commitments – including those on climate, biodiversity and human rights – and to drive the global agenda on these issues;
  • drastically reduce negative impacts of the EU food system on forests and other ecosystems while creating new incentives to promote sustainable food systems and diets and reducing waste.