Sunday

25th Feb 2024

EU parliament outlaws products linked to deforestation

  • In the last 30 years, an area exceeding the surface area of the entire EU has been cleared. (Photo: CIFOR)
Listen to article

The European Parliament approved a new law proposal outlawing products linked to deforestation.

The adopted text covers seven household products, including wood, cattle, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee and rubber and derivatives like chocolate, furniture and certain cosmetics.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In the last 30 years, an area exceeding the surface area of the entire EU has been cleared for the consumption of these products, "all too often without consumers knowing about it," said conservative European People's Party MEP and rapporteur of the file Christophe Hansen on Wednesday in Strasbourg (19 April). "I am relieved consumers no longer have to be complicit in deforestation."

Although only ten percent of lost forest cover is directly attributable to European consumers, Hansen believes others will follow the EU example.

"If our trade partners see that deforestation-free supply chains are possible, they will go down the same path," he told EUobserver. Indeed, the EU's initiative has prompted the US to review a similar bill dubbed the Forest Act.

Although the impact is still hard to gauge, the EU Commission estimates the law would directly protect an area equivalent to 100.000 football fields of forest.

Woods for the trees

One of the challenges will be implementation.

Deforestation has to be traceable to its source for the law to succeed. But commodities are often sourced from global supply chains, complicating the matter.

According to commission figures, companies can have up to 190,000 suppliers in their systems, hailing from countries around the globe. And supply chains can differ "significantly" from one product to the other, said Hansen, and multiple producers often store or ship their products in mixed tanks.

Ensuring soy or palm oil is deforestation-free "inevitably means" supply chains to the EU have to be separated, said Hansen wrote in a statement accompanying the legislation.

In practice, this means products have to be traced back to an individual plot of land or a small farmer working "only a few acres", far removed from relevant authorities.

The idea is that every plot of land linked to deforestation will be traced, for which administrators could use "DNA checks or satellite imagery," said Hansen.

How enforcement will finally work has yet to be developed. It is up to the commission to design the necessary tools and benchmarks to make the comprehensive system work, which Hansen admits could be "complicated and costly."

But proof that it can be done, Hansen said, can be found in the established system of genetically modified products, which are already separated from goods destined for the EU market where GMOs are subject to strict regulation.

Exporters violating EU rules risk facing a penalty of up to four percent of their annual EU turnover.

"Not every crate can be checked, of course, but producers should know there will be consequences if they act criminally," Hansen told EUobserver.

Unfair?

The law has yet to be formally endorsed by member states, with Finnish lawmakers describing some of its details as "unfair."

"Finland is 75 percent forest. If farmers cannot even build a shed because it causes deforestation, how can they make investments," asked Finnish centrist MEP for Renew Elsi Kaitanen ahead of the vote on Monday, adding she "could not support the proposal."

However, the widely supported proposal is not expected to be derailed in the council, and the law is expected to come into effect before the end of the year.

In two years, there will be a possibility to review and update the proposal, at which point the commission will be required to come up with an assessment for an extension of the requirements to financial institutions and investors.

"This landmark law is a much-needed ray of hope for the world's forests," said Giulia Bondi, a senior international NGO Global Witness campaigner. "However, it needs the final piece of the puzzle — the European Commission must urgently deliver a new law that would stop banks from funding deforestation."

Opinion

Are EU deforestation rules about recolonising the Global South?

The EU deforestation regulation is about how to force other nations, especially in the Gobal South, to follow EU rules to protect its own products — and is not about real concern for the environment, writes Indonesia's ambassador to Germany.

MEPs tighten deforestation rules, covering banks

MEPs in the environment committee have backed a wider scope and stricter rules to reduce global deforestation driven by the European consumption of certain commodities — pushing for more ambition in a key EU climate law.

EU-Latin America summit labeled 'historic', despite tension

The European Union is pushing to revive its relationship with Latin American and Caribbean countries, particularly highlighting the importance of trade deals and investments in the region in the current geopolitical context.

EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain

The €723bn Covid-19 recovery fund, launched three years ago, has been a success, according to a mid-term internal review — but less effective than initially predicted. And according to one NGO, the commission painted an "overly positive picture".

France's Le Maire 'goes German' with austerity budget

The French government announced €10bn in further spending cuts. However, defence spending is set to increase significantly, up to €413bn from €295bn, while €400m was cut from a fund meant for renovating schools, carpooling infrastructure, and other environmental projects.

Opinion

After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports

Two years of tragedies, with well over 100,000 Russian war crimes now registered, underscore the urgent need to stop international LNG investments in Russia that continue to fund Vladimir Putin's war chest.

Opinion

Blackmailing the Global South on EU carbon border tax won't work

According to the European Commission, CBAM is supposed to prevent "carbon leakage". In other words, it seeks to prevent European industries relocating to jurisdictions with less stringent environmental policies, while also incentivising carbon pricing and industrial decarbonisation abroad.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us