In our quest to satisfy an insatiable appetite for products containing soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee, Europe is contributing to the deforestation and forest degradation of many of the world’s remaining natural areas. Forests support our global biodiversity, store enormous amounts of carbon dioxide and are home to many Indigenous groups. Their destruction has significant consequences for the climate crisis and future food security, not to mention forest-dependent communities.
To address this, the European Commission presented a proposal for a new Regulation to curb EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation, in November 2021.
The draft Regulation, which is meant to fulfill one of the key promises of the European Green Deal, aims to decrease the environmental footprint of EU consumption on the world’s forests and to inspire global trade to follow suit. By ensuring that only deforestation-free and legal products are allowed on the EU market, the EU wants to demonstrate that a supply chain without deforestation is possible.
While the proposal has been widely welcomed as a necessary step for the EU to increase its global climate and biodiversity action, environmental NGOs, including WWF, IUCN, ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth have warned that the proposed law falls short on some actions and contains loopholes that might hinder its overall objectives.
Future discussions will likely focus on the current non-inclusion of other natural ecosystems such as savannahs and wetlands, which commodities will be covered (for example, whether to include rubber and maize), the protection of local communities and Indigenous peoples’ rights as well as the role of the financial sector and investments that are currently not covered by the proposal.
Looking ahead, the multiple links between forests, agriculture and food security will require the EU to continue its efforts to ensure that trade and agri-food systems are properly aligned with the Green Deal and Paris Agreement and to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable. There must also be global efforts to recognise Indigenous peoples and local communities as critical partners, stakeholders—as well as rights holders—in forest and climate change solutions.
What they say:
“EU consumption is also taking a big toll on non-forests ecosystems, such as savannahs and grasslands, which can store two times more carbon than tropical forests.” – World Wildlife Fund
“Despite some progress, the proposal needs muscle. It fails to address issues like violence against forest defenders and access to justice for victims of land-grabbing, which are essential for ensuring that EU consumption is not increasing pressure on the most vulnerable communities or our most precious ecosystems.” – ClientEarth
“The Commission’s approach is likely to fail unless it also protects the customary tenure rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, who are among the most effective protectors of forests.”
– Open letter signed by Indigenous Peoples associations and local communities from 33 countries
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