Unambitious and uninspiring: the European Commission’s proposal for stepping-up action on global deforestation
After five years of equivocation the European Commission has proposed a ‘roadmap’ for stepping-up EU action to address its contribution to global deforestation. Despite the escalating impact of EU trade in forest-risk commodities, regardless of repeated calls from the European Parliament for regulatory measures and contrary to the conclusions of the Commission’s own feasibility study in support of legislative intervention, the Commission has ruled-out out any new initiatives, let alone any legislative measures. The Commission’s solution to this complex problem: policy coherence.
On 18 December 2018 the European Commission released a ‘Roadmap’ that outlines the initiatives it proposes for “stepping-up EU Action against Deforestation and Forest Degradation”. The Roadmap responds to a long process of investigation, study, and policy deliberation set in train in 2008 by the Commission Communication on deforestation and forest degradation. In the decade since, the necessity for decisive action to address the growing trend of EU consumption of forest-risk commodities and increasing contribution to global deforestation has been expressed in various EU strategies (eg. the EU Forest Strategy), programmes (eg. the EU Environment Action Programme to 2020), reviews of existing forest governance and timber industry initiatives (eg, the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan), and policy commitments (eg. the 2017 European Consensus on Development).
EU's contribution to deforestation is rising every year
Despite the abundance of existing policies and non-binding measures, as well as numerous private sector commitments and voluntary certification schemes, the consumption of forest-risk commodities in the EU, and the EU’s contribution to global deforestation, has risen steadily year on year. In response to the apparent ineffectiveness of existing measures, the European Parliament has repeatedly called on the Commission to develop concrete and coherent regulatory measures to address EU trade and investment in forest-risk sectors (eg on 4 April 2017, on 4 July 2018, and 11 September 2018) and a number of EU member-states have called for “an ambitious EU Action Plan on deforestation and forest degradation“ (eg. the call from Italy, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom on 1 November 2018). The Commission’s own Feasibility study on options to step up EU action against deforestation, published on 19 March 2018, concluded that new legislative measures combined with coherent policy initiatives would have the greatest impact and deliver the most effectiveness, though also requiring the largest effort on the part of the EU.
Deforestation and human rights violations highly linked to EU
Both ENDS and the Forest Peoples Programme, together with partners from Europe and tropical forest countries, have made repeated visits to Brussels to speak with Commission representatives and emphasise the systemic patterns of human rights violations, environmental damage, displacement, physical and sexual violence, corruption, intimidation and murder of local communities, their leaders and human rights defenders linked to the expansion of forest-risk sectors in producing countries. It appears the testimonies of human rights defenders and community leaders describing the first-hand impacts of deforestation linked to European supply chains have fallen on deaf ears.
Decisive and binding action to reduce EU demand for forest-risk commodities and investment in forest-risk sectors could both prevent violence in producing countries and support efforts to protect the livelihoods, land rights and food and water security of local communities, while also supporting the EU’s efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and reducing the EU’s contribution to global climate change. The challenge of tackling the negative impacts of the global agricultural system is immense, but it is absolutely essential to efforts to halt global deforestation and prevent dangerous climate change – goals to which the EU has unequivocally committed.
New EU roadmap with measures to counter deforestation is very weak and dissappointing
Despite the importance of these objectives, the mounting evidence of the EU’s contribution to the problem, and the policy-making mandate for regulatory measures conferred by the European Parliament, the ‘roadmap’ of measures proposed by the Commission sets the woefully inadequate and sadly unambitious aim of “a more coherent policy framework for existing policies and tools”. In doing so, the Commission has unreasonably limited the scope of potential measures and ignored the recommendations of its own Feasibility Study for “a more coherent and comprehensive EU approach” acting on multiple levels, of which legislative measures offer the greatest chance of impact. Instead, the Commission has opted for the relatively easier, yet most-likely ineffective option of tinkering with existing initiatives and policies – an approach described in the Feasibility Study as being least effective and having the lowest likely contribution to the objective.
The Roadmap is equally silent on the human rights dimension of deforestation, how the proposed measures will support the EU’s existing human rights obligations and sustainable land governance commitments (for example, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure), or support secure tenure rights of forest communities and indigenous peoples in producing countries – proven to reduce deforestation effectively and efficiently.
Inputs into EU Commission’s proposals
The Roadmap was open for feedback until 15 January 2019. In the hope of alerting the Commission to the importance of its task and the evidence supporting an escalation in effort, Both ENDS and the Forest Peoples Program together with six partners from tropical forest countries made a written submission emphasising our concerns and recommendations. We hope our input will prompt the Commission to reconsider the scope of appropriate and justified measures required to address the EU’s contribution to global deforestation.
An online questionnaire about the Commission’s proposed approach was open for input until 25 February 2019. Both ENDS and partners also submitted a position paper during this second round of consultation.
For more information
Read more about this subject
Covering an area of 5.5 million km², the Amazon rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world. At least 12% of the forest has been lost in the last decades, and deforestation is still continuing at a rapid pace. Illegal logging, land grabbing and intimidation for agriculture, animal husbandry and mining are daily business, and impunity rules. Recent developments, such as the election of the new Bolsonaro government in Brazil, make the future of the Amazon region and the people living there even more uncertain than it already was.
News / 2 August 2019
The EU is still one of the world’s largest importers of deforestation: EU demand for commodities like soy, palm oil, beef, coffee and cacao requires millions of hectares of tropical rainforest to be cleared. This deforestation has significant biodiversity and climate impacts, and is often linked to human rights violations and violence against local communities and indigenous peoples. Both ENDS and partners have been actively lobbying the EU Commission to adopt a robust action plan to address and prevent human rights violations and deforestation ‘embodied’ in EU imports of agricultural commodities.
News / 14 June 2019
Last Thursday June 13, Rahmawati Retno Winarni of TUK, an Indonesian partner organisation of Both ENDS, presented a symbolic tree and an appeal to the Dutch Minister of Agriculture Carola Schouten, also on behalf of 10 NGOs. The joint NGOs are pushing the EU, including the Dutch government, for strict EU legislation to prevent the destruction of forests and ecosystems and to protect human rights.
News / 15 November 2018
On Wednesday, November 14, Dutch Newspaper De Volkskrant published a joint op-ed by Both ENDS, Hivos, Greenpeace Netherlands and Witness about the deforestation in the Amazon region which is still going on rapidly, having disastrous consequences for the indigenous people who live in the area, for biodiversity and for the climate. The Netherlands is one of the largest buyers of Brazilian agricultural products such as soy and beef, and should ensure that deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations do not occur in these production chains. Unfortunately, this is not at all the case yet.
News / 28 February 2018
Human Rights defenders from all over the world visit EU to call for strong measures against deforestation
This week, from 12 until 16 February, fourteen indigenous leaders and human rights defenders from forest countries came to the Netherlands to call upon Dutch policy makers to take serious action against human rights abuses, land grabbing and further deforestation in relation to large scale agriculture, timber logging and mining. The Dutch harbours of Rotterdam and Amsterdam receive enormeous amounts of soy and palm oil, both for the Dutch market and for further transport into Europe and elswhere.
News / 28 June 2018
Last week, indigenous leaders from various countries were in Paris to urge action on deforestation and human rights abuses at the multi-stakeholder meeting of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership. The group, invited by Forests Peoples Programme and Both ENDS, presented a publication 'Supply chain solutions for people and forests' containing a set of practical recommendations from local communities on how to make supply chains more sustainable and fair.
Publication / 27 June 2018
Publication / 26 July 2018
News / 23 November 2018
The production of palm oil is often accompanied by deforestation, environmental destruction and land grabbing. Local communities and activists who stand up against these problems are often threatened. Now the RSPO has taken significant steps in recent months to tackle these issues.
News / 15 May 2018
Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Program have formally requested the European Parliament, Commission and Council and the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, to consult indigenous and local communities impacted by EU trade in palm oil and other agricultural commodities in formal EU policy deliberations on these topics. Why did we decide to do so and what's it all about? Our colleague Michael Rice sheds some light on the matter.
News / 18 June 2019
Open letter from more than 340 organisations: EU must stop negotiating treaty with South American countries.
Today, more than 340 organisations from both South America and Europe, including Both ENDS, have sent a joint open letter to European Union leaders calling for the EU to cease negotiations on the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. The organisations and their constituencies are seriously concerned about increasing violations of indigenous human rights and damage to nature and the environment in Brazil.
News / 22 April 2013
Between 2010 and 2013, Both ENDS, within an alliance of Indonesian and Dutch organisations and universities, conducted a pilot project to improve the spatial planning in the district of Sanggau in West-Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, Indonesia, to help local communities with the recognition of their land rights. We can show you a beautiful documentary about one of the villages in this district, Terusan.
Publication / 7 November 2018
Publication / 8 May 2019
News / 26 October 2018
The sixth High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was held at the UN Headquarters in New York in July 2018. The HLPF provides an opportunity to review global progress towards achieving the SDGs and for countries to present their own Voluntary National Reviews of the implementation of the SDGs. At this year's HLPF, SDG 15, known as the 'Life on Land'-goal, was under review.
News / 3 March 2015
Under the pretext of a ‘Natural Resource Management Project’ funded by the World Bank, the Kenyan Forest Service has, again, started to forcibly evict the indigenous Sengwer people from their ancestral lands in the Kerangany Hills and to burn down their houses. This was documented on March 2nd, by a fact-finding team that was sent to the ground by the World Bank’s own inspection panel.
Press release / 6 May 2019
Almost 100 candidate EU Members of Parliament have signed a pledge drafted and endorsed by European NGOs and prominent individuals in which they commit - once elected - to promoting policies to protect and restore forests worldwide and to recognising and securing forest peoples’ territories and their rights, including the rights of women, for generations to come. The organisers hope to get many more signatures before the EU elections, to make sure the new EU parliament will start treating these topics with high urgency as soon as it is installed.
The production of palm oil is causing social and environmental problems worldwide. Both ENDS is working to make the sector fairer and more sustainable and is promoting alternatives for palm oil.
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.
Blog / 29 January 2018By Michael Rice
Pak Japin is a quiet, slim, and softly-spoken man from the village of Silat Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. I met him at a recent documentary screening in Bali on the fringe of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference, where he spoke about his community's nine year-long conflict with palm oil company Golden Agri Resources Ltd (GAR).