15 December 2021
This issue of the quarterly EUTR News provides an update on the operation of EU law to address illegal logging and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) in the period of September 2021 to November 2021. In line with our previous editions, this issue will include:
If you have any updates to share that we could include in the next newsletter, any queries regarding the EUTR implementation or enforcement that you would like us to address in the next release, or if you would like to receive this newsletter by email, please contact us at:
The COP26 Summit and Forests
In the week between the 31st of October and the 13th of November, 2021, the 26th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Change Convention (COP) took place. The Summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards climate change, and resulted in, inter alia, a pledge of 100 world leaders to end deforestation by 2030, and a declaration to support the protection and sustainable management of the Congo Basin forests. Both documents have been signed by the European Commission on behalf of the European Union (read the Commission’s press statement under this link, and the speech by the Commission’s President von der Leyen Action on Forests and Land Use under this link).
New agreement on illegal logging and timber trade between the US and Vietnam
On the 1st of October, 2021, the United States and Vietnam signed an agreement on illegal logging and timber trade, which widely builds on the FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) between Vietnam and the European Commission. You can read the assessment of the agreement and its consequences in the context of the EU timber trade conducted by Fern under this link.
The Commission’s Briefing Note on the EUTR and on sourcing of deforestation-free commodities
On the 25th of October, 2021, the Commissioned published published the latest Briefing Note on the EUTR and on sourcing of deforestation-free commodities (covering April 2021 to September 2021) produced by UNEP-WCMC. Previous editions can be found under this link.
The Commission’s report on the adoption of its delegated powers
On the 10th of November, 2021, the Commission published a report to the European Parliament and the Council on the exercise of the delegation conferred on the Commission pursuant to the EUTR, which can be reached under this link.
Council adopts conclusions on the new EU forest strategy for 2030
On the 15th of November, 2021, the Council released Conclusions on the new EU Forest Strategy, recognising the need for forests to contribute more to the European Green Deal and global targets (like, for example, the 2030 Agenda). The Council has stressed, inter alia, the importance of EU forests for human and animal health and for the environment, as well as of cooperation and dialogue between Member States, the EU institutions and other stakeholders, including civil society. You can read the Conclusions and the details of the Council findings under this link.
The Commission publishes the results of the Fitness Check of the EUTR and the FLEGT Regulation
On the 17th of November, 2021, the Commission published the long-awaited document with the findings of the Fitness Check of the EUTR and the FLEGT Regulation that had been launched in early 2020. The document acknowledges the relevance of both regulations and stresses the main areas for improvement. It can be found – along with its summary – under this link.
The Commission’s Deforestation Proposal is now out
On the 17th of November, 2021, the Commission published the Deforestation Proposal concerning certain commodities and products associated with deforestation and forest degradation. The Deforestation Proposal, which is widerly described in the analytical section of this newsletter, is intended to replace the EUTR and strengthen the legislative framework against deforestation-risk commodities. The Deforestation Proposal and related documents (including the Impact Assessment) is available under this link.
New EIA report reveals that Italian companies import illegal teak from Myanmar to the EU
On the 2nd of September, the Environmental Investigative Agency (EIA) published the report ‘The Italian Job: How Myanmar timber is trafficked through Italy to the rest of Europe despite EU laws’, revealing the scale of illegal imports of timber from Myanmar to the EU through Italian entry points.
New briefing of ClientEarth and Global Witness on human rights and forest-risk commodities
On the 6th of September, 2021, ClientEarth and Global Witness published a joint briefing that details how the EU should integrate human rights in a product-based due diligence framework for forest and ecosystem-risk commodities. The paper explains why specific human rights requirements should be integrated into the proposed due diligence framework for deforestation-free products.
‘Preferred by Nature’ opens consultations on Timber Legality Risk Assessments and tools
On the 23th of September, 2021, ‘Preferred by Nature’ launched a series of stakeholder consultation on Timber Legality Risk Assessment and the Risk Mitigation Guide covering Cameroon, Vietnam, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Thailand, Republic of Congo, Angola, Gabon, Ghana and Laos. The assessment is being developed within the Sourcing Hub framework, which aims at providing stakeholders with a legislative and risk overview in forest harvesting and processing sectors.
At the same time, Timber Legality Risk Assessment and the Risk Mitigation Guide for Equatorial Guinea has been published and is now available under this link.
Court of Auditors’ report on EU funding for biodiversity and climate change in EU forests
On the 4th of October, 2021, the European Court of Auditors published a ‘Special Report 21/2021: EU funding for biodiversity and climate change in EU forests: positive but limited results’, having reviewed the national procedures for checking domestic logging in Germany, Spain and Poland in order to assess the content and extent of the checks and confirm the importance of the Commission’s role in monitoring [what?]. They found, inter alia, that procedural weaknesses and missing checks reduce the effectiveness of the EUTR.
New ITTO update on tropical timber sector
On the 29th of October, 2021, the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) issued its quaterly newsletter. It discusses a variety of topics looking at ways to increase the income that tropical forests generate, featuring articles on the future of tropical timber sector and incentivising sustainable forest management. The newsletter is available in English, French and Spanish under this link.
The COP26 Summit – further read & references
The COP26 Summit (31October – 12November 2021) was attended by many stakeholders who areactive in the timber sector.
Amongst others, on the 2nd of November, 2021, the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) held a panel ‘Global Forests need Global Governance’ with ministers from the United Kingdom and abroad, which can be listened to under this link, with the acommpanying paper to be reached here.
On the 9th of November, 2021, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and DG INTPA of the European Commission, hosted a panel ‘Partnerships to Halt Deforestation – for the Benefit of Climate, Biodiversity, Agriculture and People’ on forest preservation and sustainable commodity production.
In addition, ahead of the COP26 Summit, on the 27th of October, 2021, TFF also released the 'Growing our low-carbon future: time for timber' manifesto about the crucial role of timber in decarbonising the construction sector.
Earthsight’s remarks on the Deforestation Proposal
On the 8th of November, 2021, Earthsight published a commentary explaining why the Deforestation Proposal must avoid relying on flawed certification schemes. This has been followed by an analysis of 9th November 2021, disclosing how suspect timber firms had lobbied for certified wood ‘green lane’ in the Deforestation Proposal.
In this section of our Newsletter, where we provide a fresh ClientEarth analysis of an EUTR implementation issue in each edition, we consider how the Commission’s new Proposal for a Regulation on Deforestation-free Products (“Deforestation Proposal”) compares to the EUTR framework
According to the Commission’s Proposal, the new Regulation will eventually replace and repeal the current EUTR and it builds on the legal and regulatory frameworks evolved thereunder. The upcoming legislative process presents the possibility of addressing the gaps identified under the EUTR, but also creates risks of the standards and progress made under the existing framework being watered down. What is certain, however, is that the new law will shape EU action against deforestation and forest degradation for many years to come – and we should, therefore, understand what it means for timber and illegal logging.
Please note that the content of the following analysis represents the views of ClientEarth only and is its sole responsibility. It does not reflect the views of the European Commission, nor any other official entity or organisation mentioned therein.
The proposed EU law on deforestation-free products- How does it compare to the EUTR?
In early 2020, the European Commission began a Fitness Check of the EU’s laws on illegal logging – the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation, followed by a public consultation thereon launched in September 2020. The exercise aimed to assess the functioning and impact of these Regulations, and to help the Commission decide whether they were still fit for purpose. On the 17th of November, 2021, the Commission published the results of the Fitness Check together with the Deforestation Proposal that is intended to eventually replace the current EUTR.
The provisions set out under the Deforestation Proposal may significantly change the legal landscape addressing illegal timber trade: strengthening the obligations of operators and traders, levelling up the powers of competent authorities, and empowering civil society to contribute to law enforcement through substantiated concerns and increased transparency. Each of these aspects contributes to strong grounds for an effective legal tool that builds on the achievements of the EUTR but that also learns lessons and takes into account the challenges of the past eight years of EUTR enforcement.
Strengthened obligations on operators and traders
More power for competent authorities
Improved substantiated concerns
In this review, we aim to provide our readers with a compact analysis of the major positive changes that the Deforestation Proposal offers in the context of the EUTR. Please note that the format of this section naturally limits the scope of issues we can analyse. If you seek a more detailed analysis of the Proposal, please see two Briefings on the Deforestation Proposal on our website on the subjects of What is in the Commission’s proposal and what is left out? and How the Deforestation Proposal compares to the EUTR. Please also be informed that a further analysis of the consequences of the Deforestation Proposal for the FLEGT Regulation, Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) and relations with third countries will be finalised and published in Spring 2022.
Picture credits: Chris Skwaji via Unsplash
 See ClientEarth, Contribution to the public consultation on the Fitness Check of the EUTR and the FLEGT Regulation, 2020.