EU unveils 'Action Plan' on Deforestation
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.
The launch of the Commission’s long-awaited Communication on stepping-up EU action to tackle deforestation on 23 July 2019 sets an important foundation for further action and opens the door to binding regulation of EU supply chains to eradicate human rights violations and deforestation from EU imports.
Voluntary market mechanisms have failed
“The Communication is a step in the right direction”, says Michael Rice, Natural Resources Governance Officer at Both ENDS, “even though it does not adopt our calls for a rights-based approach to supply chain regulation or propose binding measures to ensure EU companies and investors are not contributing to human rights violations or deforestation.
We know that EU demand for products linked to deforestation continues to grow, forests continue to disappear at a frightening pace and violence against communities defending their lands and forests is escalating. Voluntary market mechanisms have failed to stop these trends. The Communication contains a clear recognition by the Commission that the situation is serious, getting worse, and that the EU has an unavoidable role to play in finding solutions that work. This is very welcome.”
Moral and legal obligation
Both ENDS and partners have been campaigning hard to emphasise the dire state of decline of the world’s forests and the responsibility of the industrial agriculture industry in deforestation, displacement of local and indigenous communities, violence against land and environmental defenders and attacks on community leaders. “As a major consumer of deforestation-risk commodities, the EU has a moral and legal obligation to ensure its businesses and investors are not driving deforestation or facilitating human rights violations", says Rice. "This is especially the case in this age of climate breakdown when we must be doing everything we possibly can to preserve the Earth's remaining forests and protect the communities that are fighting to defend them."
Assessment of new binding measures against deforestation
First Vice-President Timmermans announced at a press conference that the Commission is “launching preparatory work for possible regulatory measures, which can be easily picked up and built upon by the incoming Commission” and that the Commission “will start assessing new regulatory measures to prevent EU consumption linked to deforestation and forest degradation.” This announcement came just days after Ursula von der Leyen was elected to become the new President of the EU Commission, who will replacing Jean-Claude Junker on 31 October 2019 together with other changes in Commission staff.
EU must play its role to stop deforestation and human rights violations
Timmerman’s statements on the Commission’s work towards new regulatory measures are promising, and raise expectations that the incoming Commission will continue to build upon the foundation set by the Communication with proposals for binding legislative measures. “Both ENDS and our partners stand ready and willing to support the Commission in developing new legislative measures and to ensure that the perspectives, insights and knowledge of local partners and communities is included” says Rice.
Both ENDS and partners have developed a range of targeted proposals to address both demand and supply side drivers of deforestation and human rights violations and presented these to the Commission in 2018, as well as providing detailed submissions on draft communication during its development.
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