NGOs’ campaign to reduce the European Union’s global forest footprint hit a new milestone on Tuesday, 5 November 2019, when the chairs of the European Parliament’s committees on environment (ENVI), international trade (INTA) and human rights (DROI) all called for a new EU regulation to tackle global deforestation.
In a packed, highly spirited room, this call was echoed by representatives from the private sector, NGOs and Indigenous Peoples from Brazil.
With all participants agreeing on a common vision for a new EU law, the debates focused on what the content of the law should be. Pascal Canfin, ENVI chair, opened the event by summarising the stakes and highlighting three options: a label, value chain measures and provisions for ending market access.
Vice President of the European Parliament Heidi Hautala as well as INTA Chair Bernd Lange, DROI Chair Maria Arena, representatives from the companies Mars and Lush, and NGOs all made the case for an EU-wide Due Diligence Regulation. This would require companies to ensure full transparency regarding their supply chains in order to monitor, address and mitigate any of their imports’ negative impacts on forests or human rights.
Francinara Baré, an indigenous leader from the Amazon, stressed the key role of Indigenous Peoples in protecting the world’s forests, and urged EU policymakers to focus on land rights when designing the proposed regulation.
Representatives of the European Commission, Fern and Côte d’Ivoire insisted that the EU shouldn’t develop solutions unilaterally; strong partnerships with producer countries must be put in place in order to address the root causes of deforestation.
The ENVI Committee will now work on specific recommendations for regulation in a new report.
NGOs, including Fern, are concerned about calls for the introduction of a new EU label to designate deforestation-free products, as it would shift the responsibility and the burden of tackling the EU’s forest footprint from businesses and regulators to consumers. Such a measure would also mean that regulators agree to allow products causing deforestation and human rights abuses to continue to be placed on the EU market.
Last May, a poll found that 87 per cent of Europeans support want new laws to ensure that the food they eat and the products they buy do not drive global deforestation. This will be achieved through strong regulatory measures, not just another label to add to the consumers’ burdens.