On Tuesday, December 6, the European Union passed a law banning the import of deforestation-linked goods. As reported in Reuters, the law will prevent companies from selling coffee, beef, soy, and other commodities linked to global deforestation into the EU market.
The law also applies to palm oil, wood, cocoa, and some derived products like leather, chocolate, and furniture. Additionally, EU lawmakers want to add rubber and maize to the list. The law will require companies to produce a due diligence statement showing that their supply chains are not contributing to the destruction of forests before they sell goods into the EU. The law also requires companies to prove that their production does not infringe on the rights of Indigenous people as described by the producer country.
Otherwise, they could face hefty fines. How much? 4% of the company’s turnover.
According to the EU parliament, the products consumed by the EU alone are responsible for 10% of global deforestation. Deforestation is then responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions.
In an effort to curb this, one year after the law is in effect, large companies will have to show that their products were not grown on deforested land after 2020 and smaller companies must comply within two years, The European Commission says the law would also reduce annual global carbon emissions by 31.9 million metric tons per year.
According to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), the law is “groundbreaking” and “historic.” "This regulation is the first in the world to tackle global deforestation and will significantly reduce the EU's footprint on nature," the WWF said in a statement. The global campaigning network Greenpeace also called the law a “major breakthrough for forests, and for the people who stood up to protect them.”
“Make no mistake, this law will make some chainsaws fall silent and stop companies profiting from deforestation,” Greenpeace spokesperson John Hyland said. However, the organization and WWF did not hesitate to acknowledge the shortcomings of the historical law.
Hyland added, “EU governments should be ashamed of themselves for adding loopholes for their logging industries, and giving flimsy protection for the rights of Indigenous People who pay with their blood to defend nature, but rest assured – we’re coming for them next. In the coming years, the EU must broaden its focus to protect nature as a whole, not just forests, and to stop the companies destroying nature not only from accessing the EU market but also getting loans from European banks.”
Additionally, according to Reuters, ambassadors from countries like Brazil, Indonesia, Colombia, and Malaysia criticized the law, calling it burdensome and costly to developing nations, which are the largest producers of these types of products. Coffee, for example, makes up 15% of Columbia’s national GDP.
Despite the reported ambassador’s criticism, last year Columbia became the first country to sign a landmark agreement for its coffee sector to conserve forests and mitigate CO2 emissions at the farm level. Regardless of existing measures, the EU said it would work with affected countries to build up their capacity to implement the rules.
Due to deforestation in places like Brazil, advocates both praise the law and wonder if it goes far enough. Greenpeace specifically called out the law’s disclusion of savannahs and peatlands, leading to the fastest growing sector of agricultural expansion in Brazil, the Cerrado Savanna, untouched by the law.
Still, EU representatives hail the law as a victory. Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee of the 27-nation bloc, said in a statement: “It’s the coffee we drink in the morning, the chocolate we eat, the charcoal we use in our barbecues, the paper in our books. It’s radical, and that’s what we’re going to do.”