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EU draft law limits imports linked to deforestation

December 6, 2022

The European Union has agreed to a new provisional deal to make it illegal for companies to trade some products, such as palm oil, soy, and coffee, if they were grown on land cleared for agricultural use after 2020.

Cattle graze on land burned and lost to deforestation by cattle farmers near Novo Progresso, Para state, Brazil, August 23, 2020.
The EU is pushing harder for companies to police their supply chains against environmental damagesImage: Andre Penner/AB/picture alliance

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to a set of rules to make it illegal to trade certain commodities grown on deforested land in a bid to combat the climate crisis.

The provisional deal is meant to force companies to prove their products aren't contributing to deforestation that end up contributing to greater carbon emissions.

Under the new rules, companies will have to do strict due diligence when importing or exporting seven products, namely: palm oil, cattle, soy, coffee, cocoa, timber and rubber.

The rules also include commodities derived from those products, so beef, furniture, chocolate are going to be monitored for adherence to new rules.

The European Commission, which both draws up laws as well as makes sure they're enforced properly in the European Union, said in a statement that the commodities were chosen on the basis of a thorough impact assessment identifying them as the main driver of deforestation due to agricultural expansion.

Palm oil in high demand, but unsustainable

A provisional deal yet to turn into law

The deal was struck between the European Parliament and the European Council, and has to be approved by every European Union member state as well as the European Parliament before it can be enforced. 

"I hope that this innovative regulation will give impetus to the protection of forests around the globe and inspire other countries at the COP15," said Christophe Hansen, the European Parliament's lead negotiator.

Hansen was referring to the United Nations' biodiversity conference that kicks off in Montreal, Canada, this week.

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that some 420 million hectares (more than a billion acres) of land has been lost to deforestation over the last three decades.

Environment charity group Greenpace hailed the draft law, calling it a "major breakthrough."

How to stop deforestation in the Congo Basin

What happens once the law is enforced?

Once the law is adopted and enforced, it will require companies to produce a due diligence statement proving their supplies are not contributing to deforestation of forests.

Companies would also have to show that the rights of indigenous communities were respected during processes.

Failure to comply could result in heavy fines, of up to 4% of a company's turnover in European Union country.

rm/aw (Reuters, AFP)