Over the last few years, European citizens have repeatedly indicated that they do not wish to be part of forest destruction and human rights abuse linked to the products they consume. On 18 October 2022, an NGO movement pressed the EU to uphold their citizens’ wishes as they negotiate the final version of the EU Regulation on deforestation-free products, intended to limit the destructive impacts of deforesting land to grow products, often for the EU market.
The letter urges the European Commission, Parliament and Council to support strong legislation that “lives up to the promises of the European Green Deal and the Sustainable Development Goals”; it asks them not to bypass this “historic opportunity to minimise the EU’s impact on forests and other valuable ecosystems within its own borders and around the world.”
Time and again, record-breaking submissions to public consultations, polls and surveys, both in Europe and globally, have placed forest destruction at the top of Europeans’ concerns, and Europeans have called for a strong law to combat the deforestation embedded in the products they consume.
Last month, the European Parliament – the most directly democratic EU institution – demonstrated its willingness to listen to its constituents (FW 278). Recognising that agricultural expansion drives deforestation and displacement of forest peoples, the version the Parliament adopted takes a strong stance on human rights, defends traditional land rights, and makes the respect of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ right to free, prior and informed (FPIC) a condition for importing products to the EU. It further insists that variable certification schemes cannot be used to bypass due diligence, and proposes that financial institutions also be required to stop bankrolling destruction.
EU citizens are asking the Commission and Council to throw their weight behind the broader public’s wishes, and to resist the pressures of specific lobbying interests that seek to pull this legislation apart. Aside from direct human rights and biodiversity impacts, research shows that better forest stewardship, such as that of traditional communities, could fulfil a great deal of the climate mitigation so urgently needed. If the Commission and Council can find the political boldness to defend Parliament’s advances in these final negotiations and put a strong law in place, we could all win.