Mighty Earth welcomes EU move to strengthen deforestation regulations

Environmental campaign organisation Mighty Earth has welcomed the EU Parliament’s move to strengthen deforestation regulations, requiring greater due diligence from industry, including the cocoa sector, reports Neill Barston.

As the group noted, the much-anticipated draft law put forward by the European Commission, requires  companies to ensure that the products they sell in Europe are not driving forest destruction or human rights abuses.

Notably, the parliament increased the scope of the laws in widening the range of agricultural and forest-based commodities to be included within the legislation – which now includes natural rubber, maize and leather. This included other wooded lands (such as the Cerrado savannah in Brazil); and ensuring companies undertake due diligence with regards to upholding human rights and Indigenous peoples’ rights in their supply chains.

Despite these key developments, Mighty Earth expressed concern that it would allow major operators and traders to carry out their own due diligence checks – which would not now require independent third party auditing, prompting concerns as to how stringently industry will apply such monitoring.

The legislation in its present form also failed to extend to exploring the impact of consumption on other ecosystems under threat including wetlands, grasslands and peatlands.

Furthermore, while Mighty Earth offered a general welcome the draft regulation as a “major leap forward” in Europe’s efforts to protect forests, it added that the Commission’s proposals had ‘notable gaps and weaknesses,’ including an overly narrow definition of “forests;” the failure to require parallel due diligence measures with regards to the protection of human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights. The organisation also claimed there was an unambitious level of coverage on the types of products covered under the law..

As previously reported, this week’s European Cocoa Association Forum event in Rome addressed the topic of deforestation, with speakers and participants offering a broad welcome to the new legislation, which is anticipated to offer a greater level of clarity and stronger frameworks for operating for many sectors of industry, including cocoa.

Dr Julian Oram, Senior Director at Mighty Earth, welcomed the legislation, but believed it had to be further amended to ensure its goals are delivered. He described the core aspects of the law as a ‘massive success’ in the amendments that had already been secured, which he said would provide much-needed protection to forests.

He said: “We particularly welcome the move by MEPs to align the EU’s deforestation regulation with human rights and the rights of Indigenous peoples under international law.”

“Adding natural rubber to the list of forest-risk commodities is also another significant step, as is putting additional measures on banks, financial institutions, and investors to ensure that their activities do not contribute to deforestation.”

“However, allowing big supermarkets, such as Carrefour, to do their own due diligence potentially leaves the door open for deforestation to continue to seep into EU supply chains. Europeans need to know that the food they buy is not laying waste to our planet’s precious forests. Progress today sets the timer on supermarkets to clean up their acts or face a ban on their deforestation-tainted products.”

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