The European Parliament and EU Member States reached an agreement overnight from Monday to Tuesday to ban the import into the European Union of several products, such as cocoa, coffee or soy, when they contribute to deforestation. Palm oil, wood, beef and rubber are also affected, as well as several associated materials (leather, chocolate, furniture, printed paper, charcoal, etc.), Parliament said in a press release.
Their import will be prohibited if these products come from land deforested after December 2020, taking into account the damage inflicted not only on primary forests, but on all forests. Importing companies will be responsible for their supply chain and will have to prove their traceability via crop geolocation data, which can be associated with satellite photos. “This is a first in the world! It’s the coffee for breakfast, the chocolate we eat, the charcoal in our barbecues, the paper in our books. It’s radical, ”welcomed Pascal Canfin (Renew, liberals), chairman of the Environment Committee in the European Parliament.
At the origin of 16% of global deforestation through its imports, the EU is the second destroyer of tropical forests behind China, according to the NGO WWF.
An extension “to other wooded lands”
The text had been proposed in November 2021 by the European Commission, and broadly taken up by the Member States, but MEPs had voted in September to strengthen it significantly, by widening the range of products concerned, in particular rubber, absent of the original proposal. The European Parliament had also called for the scope of the text to be extended to other threatened wooded ecosystems, such as the Cerrado savannah (Brazil/Paraguay/Bolivia), from which part of European soybean imports come.
The agreement reached between negotiators from Parliament and the States, after long negotiations, finally stipulates that this extension “to other wooded lands” must be assessed no later than one year after the entry into force of the text. Similarly, after two years, the Commission is required to study a possible extension of the scope to other products (such as maize, which MEPs wanted to target immediately), to other ecosystems rich in storage carbon emissions and biodiversity (peat bogs, etc.), but also to the financial sector, another strong demand from MEPs.
On the other hand, “we have already obtained a much more robust definition of what is forest degradation to cover large areas (…) and guarantees to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, our best allies against deforestation”, has observed Christophe Hansen (EPP, right), negotiator for Parliament. Thus, importers will have to “verify compliance with the legislation of the country of production, in terms of human rights, and ensure that the rights of the indigenous populations concerned have been respected”.