Mighty Earth welcomes landmark agreement on new European law to ban deforestation

Mighty Earth welcomes landmark agreement on new European law to ban deforestation   

It follows years of intense lobbying of policymakers by a coalition of civil society groups to strengthen the proposed legislation 

EU policy makers agreed a landmark new zero-deforestation law that will ban agricultural goods linked to deforestation and forest degradation from being sold in EU markets. The EU is the world’s second largest importer of agricultural products, after China. The deal was struck as government leaders begin to gather for the start of the crucial UN Biodiversity Conference COP15 meetings in Montreal in Canada. 

Reacting to the EU Deforestation Regulation agreement, Mighty Earth CEO Glenn Hurowitz said: 

“This legislation is a gamechanger for the world’s forests. For the first time, European governments are telling companies selling agricultural goods: ‘If you or your suppliers destroy forests, you can’t sell your products here’.” With this law, Europe is putting real action for wildlife on the table, too, in advance of the Montreal Biodiversity COP.”    

“Big ag companies will finally have to stop talking about how much they love forests, and start doing something for forests.” 

“With more than 125 million hectares of previously deforested land across the tropics where agriculture can be expanded without threatening native ecosystems, compliance should not be a challenge for responsible actors.” 

“There are some dangerous gaps in this new EU anti-deforestation legislation, including its failure to immediately protect carbon-rich peatlands and biodiverse savannas and to ensure full protection for Indigenous people. If EU policymakers don’t want the legislation to create a perverse incentive for big ag companies to just drive their bulldozers from the Amazon rainforest to the Cerrado savanna, they’re going to have to act quickly to close these loopholes.”   

“To fully safeguard the future of our forests, we also need the rest of the world to act. If the United States, UK, China, and Japan follow Europe, then nearly 75% of the world’s imported deforestation could be eliminated within a few years.”    

The EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) targets cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber, soy, and wood (including charcoal & printed paper); preventing any goods derived from these commodities from being sold in the EU if they contributed to deforestation after December 31, 2020.  

Mighty Earth and its CSO allies in the 200+ strong Together4Forests coalition had also been pushing hard to ensure that agricultural products imported into the EU are produced in accordance with international human rights standards, including with regards to the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). FPIC is an internationally recognised tool to ensure that any development in areas occupied by people with customary land rights cannot take place without those peoples’ explicit and prior consent. During the final negotiations, references to FPIC were added to the law, as were risk mitigation provisions relating to the consultation of Indigenous people regarding claims to their territories. 

The law also allows third parties affected by companies responsible for deforestation to make claims for access to justice in the EU; and creates penalties for breaches of the law including heavy fines, confiscation of products, ‘shame listing’ violators, and temporary bans on companies selling in the EU. 

Despite its ground-breaking nature, though, Mighty Earth is concerned about several weaknesses within the law. The provisions on human rights do not reference international standards, relying instead on national laws. Additionally, key commodities with deforestation impacts – including maize, cashew, and meats such as pork and chicken – are not covered by the regulation as it stands.  

Other threatened ecosystems such as grasslands, wetlands, and peatlands are also not protected. Mighty Earth is also concerned that the law will not come into force until July 2024 and is disappointed that EU policymakers neglected to put due diligence obligations on banks and investors that finance large commodity producers and buyers.