The European Parliament approved this Wednesday (19) a pioneering law to prevent imports into the European Union (EU) of certain raw materials and derivative products, such as palm oil, beef, soy, coffee, rubber, wood or chocolate, generate deforestation in third countries.
“The damage from deforestation goes beyond the loss of trees: it affects entire ecosystems, disrupts the water cycle, contributes to climate change and threatens the livelihoods of millions of people,” said European Commissioner for the Environment Virginius Sinkevicius, after the European Parliament validated the regulation by 552 votes in favour, 44 against and 43 abstentions.
The new regulation still needs to be formally ratified by the EU Council. It is estimated that between 1990 and 2020 the planet lost a forest area equivalent to the territory occupied by the European Union, and consumption within the bloc is responsible for 10% of this form of environmental degradation, which implies a loss of biodiversity and accelerates changes climate, according to data from the Council of the EU.
The new community law covers cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soy, wood and rubber, including products that contain them, have been fed or made with them, such as leather, chocolate or furniture, as well such as coal, printed paper products and various palm oil derivatives.
Tracking, control and sanctions
Companies that import these materials and derivative products into the European Union will have to trace their origin and issue a due diligence declaration that guarantees that they have not caused deforestation in their places of origin with respect to the values existing on December 31, 2020.
This includes not only deforestation, but also forest degradation that involves the transformation of primary forests into planted forests.
Companies will have to provide the relevant EU authorities with information about their imports, such as the geolocation coordinates of production, and will be subject to inspections and controls that can range from DNA analysis to satellite surveillance.
After 18 months of the entry into force of the regulation, by the end of 2024, the Commission will prepare a classification of the countries of origin of the products according to their low, medium or high risk, which will determine the frequency of controls.
In the case of high-risk countries, EU Member States will have an obligation to verify 9% of imports.
Fines can reach 4% of the total EU turnover of companies that do not comply with regulations.
Importers will also have to ensure that, in the process of obtaining and preparing these raw materials and derivative products, human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples are respected.
One year after the entry into force of the regulation, at the latest, the European Commission will assess whether the regulation should also be extended to other forest areas with lower tree density, such as the Brazilian cerrado.
In addition, within two years, Brussels will study whether it should be extended to other ecosystems and raw materials, such as corn and pork, goat, sheep and poultry.
The regulation could affect the development of the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, signed in 2019 after 20 years of negotiation, but blocked without yet having been ratified.
France, one of the great agricultural powers of the EU and traditionally opposed to the agreement, fears that the increase in exchanges with Latin American countries that export agricultural products will lead to more deforestation, as predicted by various environmental platforms.
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