"The vote in the Environment Committee sends a message of hope: hope for a law that can bring real change and hope for less consumption of products that leave the bitter aftertaste of nature destruction and human rights violations. We are looking towards the vote of the European Parliament to see whether our hope was justified - if not this would be disastrous for us all", says Anke Schulmeister – Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office.
After the Council position left the EU Deforestation law with more holes than Swiss cheese, MEPs in the European Parliament’s Environment Committee managed to address some loopholes. By adding more oomph to the definition of “forest degradation”, which was very much diluted by Council, making sure that the new law covers more nature and by increasing the number of checks for companies and also by better protecting the rights of indigenous and local peoples, they made it resemble more the law demanded by 1.2 million people, scientists and companies. However, it is still a mixed bag:
- More nature. The new proposal includes “other wooded land” with bush or shrub cover, but there is still plenty of room to shift deforestation pressure, thus endangering other important ecosystems, such as savannahs and peatlands. MEPs also ask the European Commission to start preparing assessments within a year of the law entering into force;
- More products. Regarding the product scope of the EU Deforestation law, MEPs propose including sheep, goat and pig meat, poultry, palm oil based products, rubber and maize. When it comes to wood products, charcoal and printed products are considered, while other important ones like music instruments are missing from the proposal;
- More checks are included in the EP proposal, compared to the Council position: 5% for companies sourcing from “low risk” countries, 10% for products coming from “standard” risk, and 20% if coming from “high risk” countries, as well as checking at least 10% of operators annually. The Environment Committee also proposed an increase in fines and penalties for companies.
The Environment Committee also voted for the application of this law in the Finance sector, sending a strong signal to stop the financing of companies that are destroying forests. “More is not necessarily enough. There is some work still to be done in plenary to support the good bits, weed out the bad ones, and to close the remaining gaps,” concludes Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office.
The European Parliament's plenary will vote on their final position in the week of 12 September, with citizens across Europe hoping for a win after two years of campaigning #Together4Forests.
EU consumption is responsible for 16% of tropical deforestation linked to international trade through beef, soy, palm oil, rubber, timber, cacao, coffee imports and their derived products. Responsibility has been until now placed on the shoulders of unknowing consumers who have been asking since 2020 for nature destruction-free products only on the shelves of our supermarkets.
- European Parliament calling for an EU law on deforestation - October 2020
- The European Commission’s proposal - November 2021
- The Council negotiating position - 28 June 2022
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Thumbnail images: © Edward Parker / WWF