On 22 October 2020, the European Parliament sent a strong signal to the European Commission by adopting MEP Delara Burckhardt’s report, ‘An EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation’, in plenary.
Pre-empting the European Commission’s final Impact Assessment of regulatory measures to decrease the risk of imported deforestation through products containing commodities such as palm oil, soya and beef, Burckhardt’s report calls on the Commission to ensure companies conduct due diligence on deforestation and human rights mandatory in order to place goods on the EU market. It also suggests financial institutions conduct due diligence before providing money to companies that harvest, extract, produce, process or trade forest- and ecosystem-risk commodities and derived products. It further calls for traceability obligations to be placed on EU market traders.
The report’s adoption, which required qualified majority, hung in the balance. But by a narrow margin of 24 votes, the report surpassed the majority of 353 votes necessary. There was controversy until the last minute with the majority of the EPP group following shadow rapporteur MEP Hildegard Bentele’s lead to abstain from voting. Some EPP members did not follow the party line; they are the environmental movement’s heroes at this hour.
A scandal also surrounded a letter sent by Eurocommerce that tried to influence Parliamentarians to vote against amendments that many NGOs view as essential for making due diligence legislation enforceable. It is still unclear whether members of Eurocommerce, such as Marks & Spencer, Delhaize and Carrefour, endorsed the retailers’ lobby efforts and position.
As global deforestation and forest degradation continue at alarming rates, the Commission is consulting EU citizens about additional EU measures needed to address continuing, alarming global deforestation and forest degradation; the consultation continues until 10 December.