The European Commission has committed to publish, in June 2021, a legislative proposal to minimise the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the European Union market. 

This briefing The future EU Regulation to address the forest, ecosystem, and human rights impacts associated with products placed on the EU market outlines the recommendations of a group of NGOs including Greenpeace, ClientEarth, Conservation International – EU office, Environmental Investigation Agency, Global Witness, Fern, and WWF EPO, about what the proposed legislation should include. 

In summary, we consider it is essential that the European Commission proposes a regulation to establish a mandatory product-based due diligence framework that requires companies that place forest and ecosystem-risk commodities on the EU market to ensure that their products comply with strict sustainability requirements. These sustainability requirements must address human rights impacts, deforestation, forest degradation and the conversion or degradation of natural ecosystems other than forests. Financial institutions must also be subject to equivalent due diligence obligations to ensure that no financing is going to business activities that do not meet the sustainability requirements. 

The regulation should apply to a comprehensive list of forest and ecosystem-risk commodities which should be identified according to objective and science-based criteria with the potential to review this list and add other commodities in the future if they satisfy the relevant criteria. The initial list should include, at a minimum, livestock products (such as beef, leather and poultry), soy, palm oil, timber, cocoa, coffee, rubber and maize.

Fundamentally, the regulation must provide that these commodities, as well as products derived from or containing them, may only be placed on the EU market when there is no more than a negligible risk that they are linked to human rights impacts, deforestation, forest degradation or the conversion or degradation of natural ecosystems other than forests

To be effective, the regulation should establish requirements for supply chain transparency and traceability, as well as a comprehensive enforcement framework, that should include: i) proportionate penalties which are stringent enough to deter non-compliance, ii) A network of well-resourced competent authorities that proactively carry out checks and controls; iii) Effective EU Member State complaint mechanisms and review procedures; iv) as well as rights for third parties to seek redress before EU courts if they are harmed by any adverse impacts addressed by the proposal or by non-compliance with its requirements

The adoption of such legislation is urgent. Last year, over 1 million people took part in the public consultation organized by the Commission to call for ambitious legislation to stop the destruction of nature or human rights abuse. The Commission needs to live up to their expectations. 

In addition to the legislation, other actions need to be taken by the EU to address the drivers of forest and ecosystem destruction and associated human rights violations. In particular, the signatories recommend the EU to provide support to governments, civil society, smallholders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities in producer countries; step up its dialogue with other consumer countries to ensure that new laws regulating the trade in and financing of FERCs are adopted in a wide number of countries and finally, adopt policies that drive a reduction in the EU’s production and consumption of meat and dairy products and guide people towards healthier and more sustainable diets.

Read the full briefing here.