Deforestation: Parliament declares new rules for companies
3 october '22
Reading time: 8 minutes
The EU parliament recently introduced new rules for companies which will help fight global deforestation. What’s going to change within companies’ businesses? Let’s find out the call to action.
Words by Eszter Gurbicz
On 13 September, the EU parliament voted in favour of a strengthened anti-deforestation law, with 453 votes to 57, and 123 abstentions. What follows is the negotiations on the final text with EU member states. Once the new rules come into force, they will ensure deforestation- free products on the EU markets. This means producers and companies will need to verify that their products are not in any ways linked to the destruction of forests and to human rights violations.
The voting took place as deforestation in the world reached record levels. This year has seen the Brazilian Amazon suffering the highest number of illegal fires since 2010, according to Greenpeace. Meanwhile, it is known that EU consumption represents 10% of global deforestation.
The first proposal of the deforestation law was published by the European Commission last November. Later on, in June 2022 the Environmental Council reviewed the draft, agreeing on supporting its existence. However, some changes they made were highly criticised by environmental groups and scientists. It was argued that they created many loopholes in the law, such as a diluted definition of “forest degradation”. It was seen as taking a step back by agreeing to a watered-down version of the deforestation law.
This change caused dissatisfaction among EU citizens as well, who seemed to have a strong support for anti-deforestation practices. A recent European poll on the deforestation law conducted by Meridian Institute found that 73% of the European citizens would act against businesses that sell products which are harmful to the world’s forests. The report also wrote that a strong majority believes the government should ban products which drive deforestation.
As part of the #Together4Forests campaign led by WWF, over 200,000 personalised letters were sent to the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), requesting stricter rules. The new deforestation law, which is the result of the voting on September 13, is a “[…]yes to the calls of EU citizens who do not want to fuel nature’s destruction through their consumption”, said Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF.
Last week's voting resulted in significant improvements to the proposal of the European Commission. Among the changes, the MEPs included “other wooded land” in the law in addition to forests, and created clearer definitions to important terms. The new proposal also includes a higher number of checks on products, which reduces the loopholes. The Parliament also wants to incorporate a wider scope of products to be covered by the new rules. With these the list will include pig meat, sheep and goats, poultry, maize, rubber, charcoal and printed paper in addition to beef, soy, palm oil, timber, cacao and coffee. Lastly, it includes a stronger protection of human rights. This is especially important since the rights of indigenous people and local communities are often violated when ecosystems are destroyed. Overall, the new law will hopefully bring forward the protection of the forests and the environment.
Greenpeace also praised the results of the voting. The EU Forest Campaigner Sini Eräjää said: “Nobody wants to worry that their weekly shop might be linked to death and destruction – the vote today is a big step towards breaking that link.”
However, concerns were raised about the high level of bureaucratic requirements the law will impose. Countries which are big palm oil producers also expressed strong criticism, since it will lead to them losing a market for their products.
In spite of this it seems the EU adopted a strong stance on anti- deforestation. The vote on 13 September and the Deforestation Law is a big step towards a more sustainable future, and is a win for both the environment and the citizens who decided to fight for it.