The European Parliament (EP) took a positive stance towards a Due Diligence Regulation to end imported deforestation in its 15 January 2020 resolution on the European Green Deal. The road to regulation is long, however, and the next steps will be pivotal.
The EP text called on the Commission to present, “without delay, a proposal for a European legal framework based on due diligence to ensure sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains for products placed on the EU market”. Significantly, all four major political groups, including the centre-right European People’s Party, agree on the need for the regulation.
Interested parties should keep an eye on two relevant reports the EP is working on. The first is a legislative initiative report on “an EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation”, led by German Social Democrat Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Delara Burckhardt. Many, including NGOs and forward-looking companies, hope that this report will lay out proposals for a binding Due Diligence Regulation referencing resilient partnerships with producer countries. Hopes may be well-founded: rapporteur Burkhardt said at a Commission conference on 4 February that this would be her priority. The ENVI vote on Burkhardt’s report is expected in mid-July, and an EP vote in plenary in September. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stated that she will take forward legislative initiatives from the European Parliament.
The other report is the EP’s official response to the Commission’s 23 July 2019 Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests. Led by rapporteur Stanislav Polčák MEP in the ENVI Committee, it is hoped this report will complement the proposals laid out in Ms Burkhardt’s report and elaborate on some of the other aspects of the Communication on Deforestation.
The Commission is carrying out an impact assessment, with preliminary results expected in October, of various approaches, including options such as labelling. The labelling approach is unpopular with NGOs as it allows harmful products to continue being marketed while shifting the burden of addressing deforestation and human rights abuse in supply chains onto consumers.