The European Parliament in a 453 to 57 vote, proposed to implement rules to ensure that products sold in the EU are not sourced from deforested or degraded land, and that goods are produced in accordance with human rights provisions.

The text adopted by the MEPs strengthens a proposal presented last year by the European Commission aimed at tackling global deforestation, identified as one of the most significant threats driving climate change and biodiversity loss.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 420 million hectares of forest, representing an area larger than the EU, were lost to deforestation between 1990 and 2020, with EU consumption responsible for approximately 10% of global deforestation.

A recent report released by the UN-backed Race to Zero found that deforestation attributable to companies with land-based value chains, particularly in the forest, land and agriculture sectors, is responsible for a significant proportion of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The sectors contribute 22% of global emissions, half of which are driven by deforestation.

Group of the European People’s Party MEP Christophe Hansen said:

“We are serious about fighting climate change and biodiversity loss. Acknowledging that the EU is responsible for around 10% of global deforestation, we have no choice but to ramp up our efforts to halt global deforestation.”

The new proposals would introduce obligations for companies to verify that goods sold in the EU have not been produced on deforested or degraded land anywhere in the world.

The European Commission’s initial proposal covered products containing or made using commodities including cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm-oil, soya and wood. The EU Parliament’s revised proposal adds pigmeat, sheep and goats, poultry, maize and rubber, as well as charcoal and printed paper products, and brings forward the requirement that the products not be produced on land deforested after 2019 from 2020.

The MEPs also voted to amend the proposals to extend the rules to cover financial institutions to ensure that banking, insurance and investment activities do not support projects linked to deforestation.

Sustainability-focused groups applauded the EU Parliament vote for strengthening the deforestation proposals.

Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF’s European Policy Office, said:

“The vote in the Parliament today for a strong deforestation law has been a clear yes: a yes to reducing the EU’s footprint, and a yes to protecting forests and savannahs and the rights of indigenous peoples. It has also been a yes to the calls of EU citizens who do not want to fuel nature destruction through their consumption.”

Global Canopy Policy Director Helen Bellfield added:

“Great to see the European Parliament back a strong law to address deforestation and conversion, including finance and respecting international human rights standards. Member States and the Council need to listen and raise their ambition.”

The proposals will now to negotiations towards the final law with EU member states.

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