MEPs have voted in favour of a new law that will ban the importation of products linked to deforestation into the EU. The legislation means companies will only be permitted to sell products in the EU if the supplier has issued a “due diligence” statement confirming that the product does not come from deforested land or has led to forest degradation after December 31, 2020. Companies will also have to verify that these products comply with legislation in the country of production, including on human rights, and that the rights of affected indigenous people have been respected.
The products covered by the new legislation include beef, soya, cocoa, coffee, palm oil and wood. The law also covers products that contain, have been fed with or have been made using these commodities such as leather, chocolate, furniture, rubber, charcoal and printed paper products. The EU Parliament has secured a wider definition of forest degradation that includes the conversion of primary forests or naturally regenerating forests into plantation forests or into other wooded land. The new law means that the EU will classify countries, or parts of them, as being of low, standard or high risk based on an assessment which will be carried out within 18 months of the regulation coming into force. Products from low-risk countries will be subject to a simplified due diligence procedure.
EU authorities will be provided with information by companies, such as geolocation coordinates, and will conduct checks using satellite monitoring tools and DNA analysis to check where products come from. Companies found to be non-compliant with the law will be fined at least 4% of their annual turnover in the EU. The new law was adopted by MEPs with 552 votes to 44 and 43 abstentions. The text of the regulation must now be formally endorsed by the EU Council.
Rapporteur Christophe Hansen welcomed the news, saying: “Until today, our supermarket shelves have all too often been filled with products covered in the ashes of burned-down rainforests and irreversibly destroyed ecosystems and which had wiped out the livelihoods of indigenous people. All too often, this happened without consumers knowing about it. I am relieved that European consumers can now rest assured that they will no longer be unwittingly complicit in deforestation when they eat their bar of chocolate or enjoy a well-deserved coffee. The new law is not only key in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, but should also break the deadlock preventing us from deepening trade relations with countries that share our environmental values and ambitions.”
The legislation is expected to come into effect by the end of 2022. The move follows the publication of a report by the European Commission in 2019 which found that the EU was responsible for over 10% of global deforestation caused by the production of commodities such as palm oil, beef, soy and cocoa. The report also found that the EU was responsible for 36% of the global deforestation caused by the production of these commodities, despite only consuming 12% of them.
The new law has been widely welcomed by environmental campaigners. Greenpeace EU forest campaigner Sini Eräjää commented: “This is a major step forward in the fight to protect the world’s forests and the rights of indigenous people. The EU is now leading the way in holding companies accountable for the products they sell and the damage they cause. But this is only the beginning. The EU must now take action to end its own contribution to deforestation, by setting binding targets to reduce the EU’s forest footprint and ensuring that its trade and agriculture policies support forests, not destroy them.”
The new law is a significant step towards reducing deforestation and protecting the world’s forests. It is hoped that other countries will follow the EU’s lead and introduce similar legislation to help combat deforestation and protect the planet’s biodiversity.