Companies selling goods to and within the EU may soon not be allowed to source their products from deforested or degraded land as the result of a new proposal Parliament has voted for.
Initially drafted by the Commission in 2021 as part of the European Green Deal, MEPs voted in favour of the proposal for a regulation on deforestation-free products by 453 votes to 57 with 123 abstentions..
Following on from the vote, Parliament will begin negotiations on the final law with EU member states.
If it becomes legislation, companies would have to exercise ‘due diligence’ by verifying that all their goods sold within the bloc have not been produced on deforested or degraded land anywhere in the world.
This would give consumers a guarantee that the products they buy do not contribute to deforestation or land degradation.
The European Parliament has also said it wants to include pig meat, sheep, goats, poultry, and maize products in the proposal.
Besides food products, other goods which would be covered under the law include wood, leather, furniture items, as well as charcoal and printed paper goods.
The products must not have been made on or sourced from land which was deforested after 31 December 2019 – a year earlier than what the Commission asked for in its proposal.
MEPs said the law should make it obligatory for companies to verify that their goods respect the rights of indigenous peoples and are developed in line with human rights provisions in international law.
Companies bringing in products to the EU market would be obliged to exercise due diligence to manage risks in their supply chain.
They could use satellite monitoring tools, field audits, capacity building of suppliers or isotope testing to track where products come from. The EU would be able to collect and check this information, such as geographic coordinates. The public would also be able to access the data, but it would be anonymised.
No country or commodity will be banned from selling in the EU if the proposal is introduced, but the Commission will be able to use the information from this transparent assessment within six months of the regulation coming into play to classify countries into low, standard or high risk categories. The lower risk the country is, the less obligations they will be subject to.
If the law passes, it will help the EU to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, according to Parliament.
Christophe Hansen, MEP for Luxembourg, said of the proposal: “We are serious about fighting climate change and biodiversity loss. Acknowledging that the EU is responsible for around 10% of global deforestation, we have no choice but to ramp up our efforts to halt global deforestation. If we get the balance right between ambition, applicability and WTO compatibility, this new tool has the potential to pave the way to deforestation-free supply chains.”
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), between 1990 and 2020, around 420 million hectares of forest – larger than the size of the EU – was lost due to deforestation. The FAO has estimated that current consumption in the bloc represents around 10% of losses.