Nearly six months after the ground-breaking EU Regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) entered into force, Team Europe – the initiative uniting the European Commission and its Member States – has launched an ambitious support facility for “Deforestation-free Value Chains”. Several European Ministers announced the move on 9 December on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Conference being held in Dubai (COP 28). The Team Europe Initiative (TEI) aims to provide producer countries with increased financial and technical support to comply with the EUDR.
The Ministers emphasised that the TEI will be ‘demand-driven’ and responsive to the needs of producer governments and other impacted stakeholders. In the words of EU Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius who presented at the event, “This new Team Europe initiative will bring us all closer to achieving our shared goal of halting and reversing deforestation worldwide.”
This is a welcome step as Fern’s partners have long emphasised that indeed this is a shared initiative and underlined the importance of collaborating with stakeholders in producer countries, from government to civil society. Genuine partnerships, including multistakeholder dialogues, can play a transformative role, helping to address the root causes of forest loss and supporting countries to uphold and improve their laws to protect forests and protect rights. As Fern’s recent report stated, true partnerships need to be inclusive, have clear and direct incentives, be independent and have robust monitoring and evaluation systems.
France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the European Commission announced their initiative would galvanise Euro 70 million of additional funding for implementation. The lion’s share will go the Sustainable Agriculture for Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) programme which principally aims to support smallholders to comply with EU law and be part of supply chains. This is important as multiple reports have warned that the EUDR could be an unbearable burden on the most vulnerable actors.
In addition to SAFE, the TEI will include a technical assistance facility to support producer governments, companies and producers with issues such as traceability, geo-localisation and land-use mapping. It is unclear where this facility will be housed or how large it will be. Priority countries include Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia and Zambia, with activities to be launched in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Vietnam in 2024.
Article 30 of the EUDR calls on the EU to negotiate partnerships to ease EUDR compliance. The European Parliament expanded this article in order to support producer countries to improve forest governance and implement zero-deforestation and legality regulations. The Commission is tasked with developing a “comprehensive strategic framework” to guide the development of such partnerships. It is concerning that the TEI has been launched before such a framework exists. We hope the framework to be released as soon as possible.
On the day of the TEI launch, the United Kingdom announced a set of laws to require businesses operating in the UK to conduce Due Diligence to ensure imported forest risk commodities aren’t produced on land that is illegally occupied or used. The list of commodities includes palm oil, soy, cocoa, beef and leather, but fails to include maize, coffee and rubber. The financial sector is also not included.