The European Commission has launched a consultation on deforestation but has dropped regulation from the discussion.
In December 2018, the European Commission published a long-anticipated roadmap to ‘step up European Action against Deforestation,’ followed by a consultation on a coherent approach to deforestation and agricultural expansion, open for submissions until 25 February 2019.
Both aim to inform a new communication in mid-2019, but regulation has been dropped from the discussion.
Civil society organisations, including Fern, welcomed the roadmap but said they regret its failure to include regulatory options. The on-going consultation also fails to ask whether regulation is needed.
In March 2018, the Commission’s feasibility study considered policy options to tackle deforestation; it found that regulation would have ‘the greatest impact on the objective while at the same time requiring the largest effort and time on the part of the EU.’
Voluntary measures have proven inadequate, said Fern. More than 450 companies in the food and agriculture sector have committed to stop deforestation and to respect human rights; however, there is no evidence to indicate that these commitments are having the intended impact.
A 2018 Fern and Forest Trends report found that, although voluntary commitments are a crucial first step, to control deforestation effectively, they must be followed by government regulation. Binding measures would deliver a level playing-field, allow for enforcement and accountability, and create legal clarity.
EU member states, 200,000 citizens, the European Parliament and others all called for ambitious EU action before the launch of the roadmap and consultation.
After almost two decades of failed voluntary action in the cocoa sector, France, Belgium and most recently Germany have called for legally binding EU measures.
On 24 January 2019, Mondelez, the world’s second-largest chocolate company, expressed “strong support” for “harmonized EU legislation to create a level playing field” in the cocoa sector.
The EU has already regulated illegal timber, illegal fishing and conflict minerals but has never done so with agricultural imports.
Fern has called for new laws to ensure that neither the EU financial sector, nor products placed on the EU market cause negative environmental and social impacts like deforestation, forest degradation or human rights abuses.
[photo: Mighty Earth]