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On 17 November 2021, the EU published a legislative proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products. The proposal aims to reduce deforestation by setting targets for commodities linked to a high risk of deforestation, such as soy, beef, palm oil or coffee.
Before placing these products on the EU market or exporting them from the EU, operators and large traders would face certain requirements. The proposed regulation makes them responsible for carrying out comprehensive, effective and continuous due diligence to prove that their products are not linked to deforestation or forest degradation. Further, it asks operators to disclose information about their supply chains and report on their measures to avoid deforestation.
On 28 June 2022, the Environmental Ministers of the EU Member States presented their position on the Commission’s proposal at the Environmental Council’s Meeting. They have narrowed down the types of forests and ecosystems that would be included in this regulation, which leaves other important carbon stores and habitats unprotected. A further serious gap in the regulation is opened by the Council’s amendment that requires companies producing for the EU market to comply with the laws of the producing country. For example in Brazil, where laws protecting environmental and Indigenous rights are being dismantled, products exported to the EU are not guaranteed to have been produced according to international human rights.
On 12 July 2022, the EU Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI Committee) has voted by a large majority on ammendments that would strengthen the regulation. They foresee a regulation that includes more commodities (notably pigmeat, poultry, maize and rubber) and stronger protection for human rights and the rights of Indigenous people.
Trilogue proceedings finalising the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products will start in autumn.
The expansion of agricultural land for the production of animal feed or palm oil is the biggest driver of loss and degradation of forests and other natural ecosystems worldwide. The EU’s demand for these so-called forest and ecosystem risk commodities plays a significant part in global deforestation linked to international trade.
In this publication, we have analysed, compared and evaluated five different approaches to halt deforestation in EU supply chains. To identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of each approach, we have conducted expert interviews as well as an extensive literature review.
Deforestation, overexploitation and climate change threaten forests around the world. The European Union also plays an inglorious role in this. To change this, the European Commission presented yesterday a legislative proposal to prevent products from forest destruction from entering the EU internal market in the future. At the same time, a general EU supply chain law is being planned. Is the EU Commission duplicating its efforts? No, say Julia Otten and Johannes Heeg from our member Germanwatch and the Initiative Lieferkettengestz.
The legislative proposal presented today by the EU Commission to exclude deforestation in the supply chains of companies operating in the EU market does not go far enough, according to the environment and development organisation Germanwatch. Katharina Brandt, policy advisor for agriculture at Germanwatch, says: "If we want to curb the climate crisis and stop the global extinction of species, savannahs and wetlands must not fall victim to the cultivation of soy for industrial livestock farming in Europe."
How do European livestock farmers know whether forests have been cleared for the cultivation of soy in their feed? So far, feed manufacturers have pretended to be unable to take responsibility for their supply chains. Tracing back the origin of the soy through many intermediaries along the global supply chain was too difficult for them. In the future, however, an EU law could require companies to take responsibility for their global supply chains.