Palm oil fruits

EU must show ambitious action in proposed new law to tackle the bloc’s deforestation footprint

EIA and our partners today called for ambitious action by EU lawmakers to combat deforestation.

The European Commission is shortly due to propose new legislation to address the EU’s impact on deforestation and forest degradation around the world.

The EU is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation through its consumption of commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, cocoa and coffee – and the new law is a step towards acknowledging the problem and addressing it.

Ahead of the legislative proposal, we and six other NGOs – ClientEarth, Conservation International Europe, Fern, Global Witness, Greenpeace and WWF – are calling for an ambitious regulation to combat deforestation and have outlined our recommendations in a new briefing.

The proposed law is expected to build on the approach set out by the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) – a law which requires due diligence and can ban illegally sourced timber from the EU.

EIA was instrumental in the establishment of the EUTR and continues to work on it with relevant enforcement officials throughout the EU.

As with the EUTR, EIA and others are calling for a mandatory due diligence approach which will involve companies assessing risks for the commodities they place on the EU market – whether it is beef or leather, coffee, chocolate containing cocoa or shampoo containing palm oil – to ensure they have not added to an already alarming rate of deforestation or other related abuses.

EIA Forests Campaigner Siobhan Pearce said: “What’s key is that the new legislation not only covers deforestation, but also other ecosystems and associated human rights abuses  otherwise, companies may just switch to destroying other natural habitats, such wetlands or savannahs, rather than forests.

“Despite deforestation rates being lower where land tenure rights are formally recognised, such rights are rarely recognised in law and land-grabbing is often prevalent. Protecting land rights is crucial to bring down deforestation rates and enabling indigenous communities to govern their forests.”

The new briefing also argues the new law needs to ensure robust enforcement and that the EU must step up dialogue with, and support for, producer countries.

Partnerships with producer countries have been seen as a crucial part of the approach under the EUTR – in the form of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) – by enabling legal reforms in producer countries and giving local communities and indigenous peoples a voice in decisions.

Oil palm plantation, Indonesia (c) EIA

We are calling for the EU to:

  • establish clear requirements for companies placing commodities on the EU market on deforestation, forest degradation, ecosystem conversion and associated human rights abuses;
  • apply equally to all listed commodities, both when they are placed on the EU market in raw form (e.g. crude palm oil) or contained in products (e.g. lipstick which contains palm oil);
  • require companies, including financial institutions, to carry out due diligence to ensure they are not causing adverse impacts;
  • require companies to trace and publish their supply chains back to where the commodities were sourced;
  • establish a robust enforcement regime with proactive checking of companies and effective, dissuasive and proportionate penalties;
  • include a complaints mechanism and enable third parties to seek redress for harms caused to them;
  • address the underlying drivers of deforestation through dialogue with other countries and provide accompanying measures to support governments, civil society, smallholders, indigenous peoples and local communities in producer countries.

Pearce added: “This is a key year, with major international meetings on both biodiversity and climate change. With that in mind, it is important for the EU to put forward a world-leading proposal, in line with its Green Deal commitments, and to ensure it works closely with other countries to tackle the causes of deforestation worldwide to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss.”