Brussels – December 16: EU Member States have just released their official reaction to the Commission’s Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests. They “request” the Commission to “expeditiously” undertake the assessment of regulatory measures in order to “reduce the EU consumption footprint on land”. They also affirm their support for working in partnership with producing countries.
Nicole Polsterer, Fern’s Sustainable Consumption and Production Campaigner said:
“We welcome Member States’ request that the Commission assess which regulatory measures will best tackle the EU’s forest footprint. We are also pleased that EU governments recognise the importance of a partnership approach that reinforces supply-side measures.
We urge EU policy makers not to get distracted by toothless greenwashing initiatives such as labelling or sustainable forest management. The best solutions must tackle the real problems such as the failure of voluntary commitments and weak land rights.
We call on the EU to pass a mandatory due diligence law to make companies and their financiers directly responsible for ensuring their imports aren’t tainted by land grabs and deforestation. To address the root causes of deforestation such as poor forest governance and unclear land tenure, the EU must develop partnerships with producer countries in a transparent and inclusive manner, including forest-dependent people in both negotiations and implementation. This will bring clear development, environmental and climate benefits to partner countries.”
On trade, Member States call on the Commission to “better take into account the issue of deforestation and forest degradation in Sustainability Impact Assessments (SIAs), these in advance of concluding the negotiations and to further integrate deforestation and forest degradation in the [trade agreements’] ex-post assessments.” This is an important statement, given that the European Commission finalised EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement negotiations despite the lack of up-to-date analysis of the deal’s potential damage and in contradiction of a 2016 ruling by the EU Ombudsman.
“It is shocking that the Commission has finalised EU-Mercosur negotiations without being informed of the potential impacts on deforestation. By calling on the Commission to consider such impacts before concluding negotiations, Member States are implicitly criticising how the Commission dealt with the EU-Mercosur,” added Polsterer.
EU Member States also invite the Commission to consider the feasibility “of an early alert mechanism in order to notify consumers, public authorities and companies sourcing commodities from areas at risk of deforestation”.
“We welcome EU countries’ proposed deforestation alert mechanism. Such a mechanism should also focus on human rights, as the guardians of the forest are facing increasing attacks and even murders” ended Polsterer.
Note to editors:
As potential demand-side measures, EU Member States mention due diligence, initiatives to raise the awareness of consumers, voluntary industry commitments, deforestation-free public procurement procedures as well as standards and certification schemes to better identify deforestation-free products.
On supply-side measures, they invite the Commission to assess the feasibility of “bilateral agreements with producing countries” and underline the need to learn from the experience of the Voluntary Partnership Agreements to tackle illegal logging. They also recognise the importance of good governance and “predictable land tenure systems”.