EU ambition on deforestation exposes weakness of UK measures

News / 17 Nov 2021

New European laws on deforestation-free products could deliver a significant shift in company action on deforestation

The draft proposals published by the European Commission are stronger than the due diligence measures introduced in the UK’s Environment Act, requiring all companies to carry out due diligence to ensure that imports of six forest-risk commodities are not linked to either legal or illegal deforestation.

Companies will also be required to ensure that the commodities were produced in line with local environmental and human rights laws.

The UK measures are limited to illegal deforestation, raising concerns that the new law could lead some countries to weaken forest protection, allowing more forest to be cleared.

The EU measures will apply to six forest-risk commodities: beef, palm oil, soy, cocoa, coffee and wood, and will include some derivative products.

But the EU measures only apply to forests and do not include other important areas of biodiversity such as savannahs and wetlands. A review clause means there will be an opportunity to reconsider this at a later date.

Helen Bellfield continued:

“We welcome the review clause and the recognition that these measures must be informed and shaped by deforestation data on the ground, but it is disappointing to see such a limited definition of forests, leaving critical areas such as the Cerrado vulnerable to conversion for agriculture.”

“It is also disappointing that financial institutions are not covered. The finance sector is slowly waking up to the material risks related to deforestation and could help drive change in supply chains. Given record deforestation rates, we need the finance sector to act quickly, not just for the leaders to take the necessary steps.”

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