EU strategy to tackle deforestation should be priority of the new Commission

23 July 2019

The EU has committed to tackle tropical deforestation caused primarily by the production of goods such as palm oil, soy, beef or cocoa imported into Europe, in a new policy paper today

Environmental lawyers from ClientEarth have welcomed the Commission’s plans to protect and restore the world’s forests, recognising the EU’s failure to meet its own objectives to reduce gross tropical deforestation by 50% by 2020.

According to Global Forest Watch, the tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018. Agricultural expansion is one of the major causes of deforestation, which is the second largest source of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

Lawyers said the Commission’s new policy paper was an important step, but regretted that some of the actions remain vague and without set deadlines. In particular, they called on the new Commission to take action urgently to introduce new regulatory measures.

ClientEarth forest Senior Law and Policy advisor Clotilde Henriot said: “The EU has recognised it is unlikely to meet its 2020 goal to reduce deforestation. This strategy arrives late but it is a strong signal sent by the outgoing Commission to the next.

“We hope that robust targets set against short timelines will follow to demonstrate that the EU can be a frontrunner in creating innovative measures, including new regulations to reduce the trade of commodities associated with deforestation.”

ClientEarth lawyers have strongly supported the Commission’s global approach, including a combination of supply side and demand side measures, in a partnership with producer and consumer countries, as well as with business and civil society.

In timber producing countries, the Commission will help to develop and implement national forest laws and sustainable forest management, including extra efforts to recognise local communities and indigenous peoples’ rights as well as the protection of environmental defenders.

On the demand side, the Commission is considering additional regulations to minimise the risk of deforestation and forest degradation from commodity imports into the EU, pushing corporations to act responsibly.

ClientEarth said that it was now time to introduce laws requiring companies to check their supply chains to identify, mitigate and prevent environmental impacts and human rights abuses. ClientEarth, with Global Witness, will release a detailed briefing on proper due diligence tomorrow.

Henriot added: “The EU’s policy paper goes in the right direction: the Commission must take steps to adopt regulations at an EU level for commodities that cause deforestation. The EU should also dedicate resources to support producer countries to avoid deforestation.

“Financial and technical assistance should help countries consolidate and align laws governing land use planning and to clarify land allocation. This must be done while ensuring meaningful participation of civil society, local communities and indigenous people.

“We also share the Commission’s concerns about the importance of forest restoration. Protecting and restoring are two key aspects to address deforestation and climate change.”

-ENDS-

About us:

ClientEarth is a charity that uses the power of the law to protect people and the planet. We are international lawyers finding practical solutions for the world’s biggest environmental challenges. We are fighting climate change, protecting oceans and wildlife, making forest governance stronger, greening energy, making business more responsible and pushing for government transparency. We believe the law is a tool for positive change. From our offices in London, Brussels, Warsaw, Berlin, Madrid and Beijing, we work on laws throughout their lifetime, from the earliest stages to implementation. And when those laws are broken, we go to court to enforce them.

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