EU to introduce new laws banning products linked with deforestation

The European Union (EU) has agreed on a new law to prevent firms involved in deforestation selling the likes of coffee, beef, soy and other commodities into the European market.

It said that as one of the major consumers of these commodities, the rules could help to prevent “a significant share” of global deforestation and forest degradation which are associated with increasing greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.

When the new rules enter into force, all relevant companies will have to conduct strict due diligence to sell in EU markets.

Palm oil, cattle, soy, coffee, cocoa, timber and rubber as well as derived products (such as beef, furniture, or chocolate) will all be included under the due diligence rules.

The products were chosen following an impact assessment identifying them as the main driver of deforestation due to agricultural expansion. 

Once in place, operators and traders will have to prove that the products are both deforestation-free and legal.

Companies will also be required to collect precise geographical information on the farmland where the commodities that they source have been grown. Member states will then need to make sure that firms not complying with the rules face penalties that are stringent enough.

The EU said it would regularly review the list of commodities to take into account new data such as changing deforestation patterns.

This agreement comes just before the start of the Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) which is set to define protection goals for nature for decades to come.

“I hope that this innovative regulation will give impetus to the protection of forests around the globe and inspire other countries at the COP15,” said the European Parliament’s lead negotiator, Christophe Hansen.

The Commission will run a benchmarking system that will assess countries and their level of risk of deforestation and forest degradation.

The European Parliament and the Council will now formally have to adopt the new regulation before it can enter into force. Once implemented, traders will have 18 months to implement the new rules.

Deforestation and forest degradation are important drivers of climate change and biodiversity loss. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 420 million hectares of forest – an area larger than the EU – were lost to deforestation between 1990 and 2020.

In terms of net area loss (the difference between area of forest cleared and new surface of forests planted or regenerated), the FAO estimates that the world lost around 178 million hectares of forest cover in the same period of time, which is an area triple the size of France.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles