Press release: 11 April 2024

Standing firm on the EU’s new deforestation law only way to maintain legal certainty – ClientEarth

Today, over 170 NGOs wrote to the Commission President urging her to stand firm on the timelines in the landmark EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) and reject pushes for delay and watering down of the legislation.

It comes after the European Commission announced a delay of the country-benchmarking process, which would apply different due diligence rules for imports from countries considered high, standard or low risk.

This has fuelled suggestions that the transition period for companies to comply with the legislation should be extended beyond the existing 18-months – a process that would throw the whole law into uncertainty.

ClientEarth lawyer Michael Rice said: “The period for to comply with the EUDR is already significant given the rapidly escalating climate and biodiversity crises and high rates of global deforestation, to which the EU is a major contributor. Instead of delay, tackling these global challenges now is essential to future-proofing the agriculture sector.

“The EUDR is clear on what it requires from operators and traders. The rules entered into force almost a year ago, giving industry ample time to get to grips with them. Delaying it now will effectively penalise those companies that take their legal obligations and sustainability seriously and have been investing in adapting to the new legal requirements in time.

“It’s now critical that national governments appoint well-resourced enforcement authorities and adopt supportive measures to help small farmers.”

The Commission has indicated that it will not benchmark any countries under the EUDR before the end of the year when it will start applying to the private sector, and instead all countries will be regarded as ‘standard risk’.

This will mean 3% of all operators and traders will be checked when importing products like coffee, chocolate, timber and beef in 2025 regardless of where they are sourcing from.

ClientEarth argues that this does not justify calls for delay of the law but would actually provide even greater clarity and certainty for importing companies and producers in and outside the EU.

Rice added: “Marking all countries as standard risk when the EUDR starts applying to the private sector makes for a much simpler framework, for EU companies and Member States alike.

“If all countries are considered standard risk under the country benchmarking mechanism, then operators can design and implement consistent and standardised due diligence procedures for all their supply chains from all countries. That in itself will provide certainty that their due diligence procedures will not need to change if their sourcing countries are later benchmarked as high risk.

“Likewise, applying a standard risk category provides additional assurance regarding the likelihood of operators or traders’ products being checked at the port. They’ll know exactly what to expect come 2025.”

Even if companies are benchmarked as low risk, the law requires companies to still gather information diligently and assess risks like fraud and product laundering in their supply chains from these low risk areas. This means, according to ClientEarth, that companies must still invest in quality due diligence even for supply chains from countries benchmarked as low risk.


Notes to editors:
  • Extending the transition period would require amending Article 38 of the EUDR and necessitate a co-decision process requiring formal approval from the Council and European Parliament.

  • The benchmarking process, which uses general and aggregated information, is unlikely to benefit companies in their own due diligence. Assessing risks for entire countries or regions isn’t very helpful for checking specific shipments of products from specific plots of land.

  • Likewise, the Commission will base country benchmarks on well-known scientific evidence and recognised sources, which companies already have access to for their own due diligence.

About ClientEarth

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.