Brussels – On Monday 5 December, representatives of the European Commission, European Parliament and EU national governments will meet in Brussels for what may be the final round of negotiations on the EU’s new law to ban products linked to deforestation and forest degradation. If they reach a deal, this will be the moment when the world learns the final details of this groundbreaking law, which aims to ensure that nothing sold in the EU has come from areas where forests have been destroyed or human rights have been abused.

Negotiations began in September, and negotiators have already agreed on  some of the final law. Some important points are still on the table, to be hammered out late on Monday night or into the early hours of Tuesday morning.

What’s already agreed?

The negotiators have already agreed that all the commodities listed in the law, and products derived from them must be deforestation-free to be sold in the EU. They agreed in principle  that the companies placing those products on the market must carry out “due diligence”, identifying the precise origin of the commodities (the exact plot of land where soy was grown, or cattle reared), assessing the risk of deforestation and mitigating it.

They have agreed that the law would at least apply to the following products and commodities: soy, palm oil, cattle (beef and leather), wood, pulp and paper, coffee, cocoa and chocolate. 

In addition they have agreed on a country benchmarking system ranking countries as low-, standard- or high-risk, as well as looser due diligence requirements for companies that source products from so-called “low-risk countries”. Some elements of how the law will be enforced and what governments and their competent authorities will be required to do (exchange of information, interim measures when infringements of the legislation are suspected) have also been agreed.

What’s Greenpeace’s take?

Greenpeace EU spokesperson John Hyland said: “This law can stop chainsaws and bulldozers clearing forests, and can stop people in Europe unwittingly fueling them when they do their weekly shopping. Destructive logging companies and the industrial farmers who want to use the cleared land have been lobbying hard for loopholes to protect their profits, at the expense of nature and human rights. This groundbreaking law is a good start to turn the tide against deforestation, but all of Earth’s ecosystems, our essential life support, must be protected too.”

Greenpeace will also have comment and detailed analysis when the final content of the new EU deforestation law is agreed.

What are the main elements still on the table?

Forest degradation

This topic is particularly controversial especially for those countries in Europe that have a significant forestry sector. In June, the Council supported a weak definition of forest degradation that would only “primary forests”, of which there are hardly any left in Europe, and even then would only count “conversion” – proven irreversible damage to the forest ecosystem. If national governments refuse to change their position, they will condemn vast areas of forest in Europe and elsewhere to further degradation for the profit of the logging industry. In contrast, the Parliament wants to introduce a robust definition that will protect all natural forests (not only primary forests) from destructive practices (going beyond conversion), and taking into account the role of forests in supporting biodiversity.

Other ecosystems

The Commission has acknowledged the danger that protecting only forests risks shifting destructive practices to other precious natural ecosystems such as savannahs and wetlands. The Parliament wants to immediately extend the protections of the law to ‘other wooded land’ that doesn’t count as ‘forest’ in the technical sense. This would protect important natural areas, like much of the Brazilian Cerrado, from agricultural expansion to sell to the EU market. In addition to this first step, the Parliament wants the Commission to widen protection to all natural ecosystems within one year after the adoption of the law. The question is whether the Council and Commission will accept the inclusion of other wooded land and if the Commission will commit to starting a procedure next year to include all ecosystems.

Product scope

The list of products and commodities to which the law would apply is still under discussion. The Parliament wants to include rubber and maize, both of which have demonstrable links to forest destruction, and which the Commission had originally excluded. The Parliament would also extend the law to apply to other livestock, as it currently only applies to cattle. Another open question is whether the law will apply to a number of products derived from wood, palm oil and beef, that have been left out of the Commission’s proposal, such as printed materials or palm oil derivatives.

The financial sector

There is still disagreement as to whether the law should apply only to the sale of physical goods in the EU, or also to financing by banks and other financial institutions in the EU. The Parliament wants to impose due diligence obligations on European financial institutions, to ensure that companies that can no longer supply the EU market with products linked to deforestation also no longer receive support from EU-based financial institutions. The Commission and the Council have so far ignored this issue.

Human rights

Both the Council and the Parliament support taking into account the respect of human rights in this new law. However, the European Parliament has been more precise and wants the law to explicitly respect human rights protected in international law, in particular Indigenous Peoples’ “customary tenure rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent”. Sweden, which is home to Indigenous Peoples, the Sámi community, has been pushing back against that suggestion. 


There is still disagreement about when the law would start to apply. Also up for discussion is the date before which deforestation would not be taken into account by the law.

What happens next?

The negotiations are scheduled to start at 18:30 on Monday 5 December in the European Parliament. If a final deal is reached, it is likely to be late in the evening or in the early hours of the morning of 6 December. Greenpeace will issue a comment on the content of the final deal.

The agreement on the new EU deforestation law will then be officially signed by national governments at a meeting of EU ministers (this can be any ministerial meeting, as this is just a formality) and the law will be rubber-stamped by the European Parliament in a plenary session. These final formalities will likely take place early next year.


John Hyland, Greenpeace EU spokesperson: +32 (0)471 75 89 85, [email protected]  

Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 274 1911, [email protected]

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