Forest destruction is often measured by the size of soccer fields to help people understand it better. A soccer field every 90 seconds – so much rainforest disappears because European Union countries import products such as soybeans, palm oil and rubber. Earlier this year, environmental organizations illustrated the scale of the damage with a suitable installation at the Hans Zoschke stadium in Berlin. The European Union now wants to fight this so-called “imported deforestation” – with quite remarkable results in a very short time, at least by EU standards.
European businesses should be obliged to ensure “deforestation-free supply chains”. This is what the draft law that the Commission presented in November last year says. At the end of June, member states agreed to support the project, albeit with some weakening. On Tuesday, the European Parliament’s environment committee adopted its position on the bill. The vast majority of Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Liberals, Greens and Leftists call for tightening up important points.
Final negotiations of the three institutions (the so-called trilogue) are expected to start in September. And there is certainly hope that a “milestone” will be achieved in the fight for biodiversity and against climate change, says SPD MEP Delara Burkhardt, negotiator for the Social Democratic group.
Companies must prove the origin of their raw materials
The 29-year-old from Kiel, who was elected to the European Parliament only in 2019, was responsible for the so-called European Parliament own-initiative report on the subject in 2020 Main message: The Commission should say goodbye to its plan to combat deforestation through a certification system. In such systems, companies wishing to guarantee certain standards to their customers must obtain a label – in this case, “no deforestation”. Ultimately, the purchasing decision rests with the consumer.
A parliamentary report proposed that due diligence should be imposed on companies as the main tool in the fight against deforestation. Delara Burkhardt thinks it is “very cool” that these obligations are now part of the law and that forest protection is becoming the norm in the European market.
Any deforestation related to imports into the European market, whether legally or illegally taking place in the country of origin, should be legally stopped. Companies must use geolocation data to prove the origin of their raw materials. They need to gather information on the risks of deforestation and related human rights violations in their supply chains and take action to address them. Otherwise, there is a risk of penalties or foreclosure.
Environmental activists criticize that the law still leaves “more holes than Swiss cheese.” Delara Burkhardt takes the criticism seriously, but points out that many gaps can still be closed in negotiations with the Council.
There is a dispute over the scope of the law. Palm oil, beef, timber, coffee, cocoa and soybeans, as well as a range of derivative products – such as leather and furniture – are to be covered by law. Parliament wants to ensure that gum and corn are added.
First the rainforest, then the savannah?
There are also debates about how tightly to control companies. The benchmarking system will give you an idea of how high the risk of ‘deforestation’ is in individual countries, European or otherwise. The Commission wants 15 percent. products were checked in the countries with the highest risk, the Parliament even 20%, while in the Member States only 5%.
The third major point of contention: what exactly is ‘forest degradation’? The member states have adopted a definition that covers only the destruction of primary forests, which are almost absent in Europe. Parliament wants a “broader definition” that will make European forestry also responsible.
There will be no majorities to study bank and insurer investments according to the “deforestation” criterion. At some point, the question will also arise as to whether the law should be extended to other ecosystems. For example, if the rainforest is conserved, the pressure to use the savannah for agricultural purposes will increase. In any case, the fight to preserve the forest will continue, the football field.