From September through 10 December 2020, the Commission held a consultation asking the public what action the Commission should take to help stop deforestation. The understanding that, through its consumption and import of forest-risk products, the EU is responsible for more than 10 per cent of global forest destruction from the Amazon to the Congo Basin to Indonesia, clearly hit a nerve with citizens in Europe and beyond. Supported by a range of NGOs, the initiative #Together4Forests got a massive response: nearly 1.2 million people participated, and asked the EU to adopt new, strong legislation to address forest destruction in supply chains and to keep forest-risk products off the EU market.
The consultation follows the EU Communication on Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests (July 2019), in which the EU commits to assess additional (regulatory and non-regulatory) demand-side measures to increase supply-chain transparency and to minimise the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with commodity imports into the EU. This commitment was reiterated in the European Green Deal, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the Farm to Fork Strategy.
Fern and its partners also participated in this crucial consultation to highlight the need for a highly ambitious new regulation that addresses not only deforestation but also forest degradation and protection of other ecosystems and of community rights. For effective impact, binding rules should apply to all sectors, including the financial sector, and provide strong enforcement, civil liability and redress mechanisms in case of harm to forests and people. Fern also underlined that the EU should complement a due diligence regulation with partnership agreements with major forest-risk commodity-producing countries, to address the direct and underlying causes of forest loss and human rights violations.
The consultation’s outcome will contribute to the ongoing impact assessment exploring the best range of different demand-side measures. By adopting MEP Delara Burckhardt’s report, ‘An EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation’, in plenary, the European Parliament had already sent a message that it prefers the strongest, mandatory option (FW 260). A proposal for new EU legislation is expected in the third quarter of 2021.