MEPs call for binding measures to stop EU-driven global deforestation

Members of the European Parliament called on the Commission on October 22 to put forward rules to stop EU-driven global deforestation through mandatory due diligence for companies placing products on the EU market.

The Parliament adopted a report with 377 votes to 75 and 243 abstentions calling on the Commission to present an EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation. MEPs made use of their prerogative in the Treaty to ask the Commission to come forward with legislation.

“Everyone agrees that voluntary measures to halt and reverse global deforestation have failed, rapporteur German MEP Delara Burkhardt said after the vote. “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,” she added.

There is currently no EU legislation prohibiting products that contribute to the destruction of forests outside the EU from being placed on the EU market, the Parliament said, noting that subsequently, European consumers do not know whether the products they buy contribute to deforestation, including of irreplaceable tropical forests that are crucial for fighting climate change or protecting biodiversity.

MEPs said voluntary initiatives, third-party certification and labels have failed to halt global deforestation and are calling on the Commission to present EU legislation with binding measures to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation.

They called for a new EU legal framework based on mandatory due diligence for companies, meaning they must perform a risk assessment of their products to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for how they address the issue of deforestation throughout the supply chain. 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. However, the administrative burden for SMEs must be minimum and operators with large numbers of suppliers should focus on those where the risk of detrimental impacts is most significant based on a risk assessment, MEPs said, stressing that companies that fail to do so and place products on the EU market derived from commodities that endanger forests and ecosystems should face penalties.

The legislative initiative 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 stated 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 definitions of what constitutes deforestation and forest degradation, MEPs said. They also believe that ancient and primary forests should be considered global commons and protected as such, and that their ecosystems should be granted legal status, the Parliament said.

Members finally underlined how EU trade and investment policy should include binding and enforceable sustainable development chapters that fully respect international commitments and regretted that such provisions have not been fully included in the EU-Mercosur agreement.

According to the European Parliament, since 1990, 1.3 million square kilometres 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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