Press release: 13 September 2022
European Parliament ground-breaking vote on deforestation law a ‘big victory’ - ClientEarth lawyers
Members of the European Parliament have voted on crucial improvements to the draft EU law on deforestation-free products in a huge step forward for ending global nature destruction.
Michael Rice, ClientEarth lawyer, said: “The outcome of today’s vote is a big victory. MEPs were under heavy pressure to weaken the obligations on companies whose products are destroying the world’s forests and harming the communities that rely on them. Thankfully, they listened instead to the call of millions of citizens across the EU that say 'no more' to global deforestation.”
The Parliament decided to include an essential requirement to respect international human rights and the rights of Indigenous Peoples – frontline defenders against deforestation, as well as due diligence obligations for EU financiers investing in forest-risk sectors.
MEPs also supported proposals to strengthen the provisions on supply chain due diligence and access to justice, which are fundamental components of an effective and enforceable law.
"The Parliament has sent a strong signal that those funding nature destruction are equally responsible and should also be on the hook if they don’t do their due diligence."
The Parliament’s improvements make it possible for Indigenous Peoples and local communities on the deforestation frontline to bring evidence of non-compliance before European authorities and raise complaints about non-compliance before European courts.
But in a disappointing move, MEPs stopped short of including a new remediation fund to provide forest communities with support to carry out their own remediation measures.
Rice said: “To deliver tangible change for communities on the deforestation frontline, there must be support for Indigenous-led remediation efforts. MEPs have missed a golden opportunity to stand with forest communities by refusing to include a proposal for a new remediation fund that would have directly supported those most affected by EU-driven deforestation.”
A recent poll showed 80% of EU citizens from all political affiliations and age groups support a strong EU law to prevent companies selling products linked to the destruction of forests as well as other natural ecosystems and violations of human rights.
ClientEarth lawyers say MEPs have fallen short of these expectations by rejecting a proposal to extend protections to natural ecosystems other than forests, such as savannahs, wetlands and peatlands: ecosystems that are under equal pressure from agricultural expansion. Instead, they have opted to defer the issue to a review 12 months after the law's commencement.
A delegation of MEPs will now take the Parliament's position to negotiations with the EU Member States, who agreed a range of changes in the EU Council in June to significantly weaken key elements of the proposed law, making an ambitious position from the European Parliament even more important.
“The weak definition of forest degradation will be the elephant in the room during the trilogue negotiations. MEPs must stand their ground in the discussions with the Council and ensure that the same standards for forest protection apply inside, as well as outside the EU, and stand firm on coverage of the finance sector,” Rice added.
Notes to editors:
Background information on the European Commission proposal for a Regulation on deforestation-free products can be accessed here.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.