Blog / 15 April 2024

The year of truth: EU Member States urged to combat deforestation

The EU is the world's largest "importer of deforestation," due to the huge volumes of unsustainably produced soy, timber, palm oil, and other raw materials that EU member states import. After many years of delay, the European Parliament and the European Council passed a law in December 2023 to address this problem: The EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR). Both ENDS is part of a broad coalition of organizations that have been pushing for this European legislation. However, there is now a serious delay, and perhaps even postponement, of the law's implementation. Objections have been raised by a number of member states, who are sensitive to lobbying by certain business sectors and producer countries.

Countries such as Sweden and Hungary are lobbying hard against the law based on a poorly understood self-interest to protect their own forestry industry and agriculture, among other things. The Netherlands is one of the world's largest importers of soy and other 'deforestation raw materials'. It therefore has a heavy co-responsibility to make the EUDR a success, in close cooperation with tropical producer countries, companies and civil society.


Both ENDS and about 170 other nature conservation, environmental, and human rights organizations sent a fireletter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, with the following plea:

"We urge you to protect the integrity of the EU democratic decision-making process and to ensure that the EU stands firm in pursuing the objectives set out in the EUDR. Political leadership, as reflected in the development of the Green Deal, shows long-term vision, which is needed for this global crisis. We trust that you will stand by the commitment you made to EU citizens and uphold the law that you and your Commission proposed - and that the Council and Parliament overwhelmingly approved - by ensuring its proper and swift implementation." Read the letter (pdf)

Businesses and governments invariably argue that a country like the Netherlands should not act alone in addressing this issue, in order to avoid an unfavorable competitive position. They argue that trade regulation should take place at the European level to promote a "level playing field."


It is therefore unacceptable, and incomprehensible, that EU Member States are now threatening to stall progress in tackling deforestation through EU regulations. It also puts companies from Europe and tropical producer countries that operate seriously sustainably at a disadvantage compared to 'free riders': i.e. companies that, for example, save costs by paying little attention to the environment, climate and human rights.

Legitimate concerns have been raised that this European law could create market barriers for small producers (or "small holders") from tropical countries. This is a serious risk that needs to be addressed by the EU with trading partners through accompanying measures. At the same time, it should be noted that a number of governments from tropical countries label the EUDR as discriminatory, using the occasional argument of excluding small producers.

Many crocodile tears are shed over small producers, while governments at home often take inadequate action to improve their position. The focus of government policy, investment, and licensing is often on facilitating large companies.

Climate Goals

The UN Climate Panel IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) emphasizes that it is not possible to meet the Paris climate goals without reversing deforestation. According to the IPCC, there is no scenario in which global warming can be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, without halting deforestation.

Role of Indigenous Peoples

It is also indicated that the role of indigenous peoples, custodians of more than 500 million hectares of forest, is indispensable in this regard. We previously wrote about this in a post.

Deforestation for the production of soy, wood, and extraction of oil, gas, coal, and other raw materials for the European market leads to large-scale land grabbing of farmers and indigenous communities and widespread violation of human rights.

Both ENDS has facilitated direct dialogue between EU policymakers in Brussels and with member states with indigenous delegations several times in recent years. Affected indigenous peoples appeal to policymakers to take responsibility, in their Call to Action.

Courage, Commitment, and Diligence

It is now time for the Netherlands and other EU member states to show courage, commitment, and diligence to make their contribution to combating deforestation.

Both ENDS has been a member of RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) since 2005, whose mission is to facilitate active cooperation and shared commitment in the value chain to stimulate demand and ensure sufficient supply of sustainable palm oil.


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