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How important is the EU’s new regulation on deforestation for all of us?

Very soon, the EU will decide on a new piece of legislation that could make a great change when it comes to protecting the world’s remaining forests and fighting the climate change. The European Parliament, Council of the EU, and European Commission have all settled on their respective positions on this matter.

The new regulation should minimise the harm that EU consumption causes to forests and ecosystems that depend on them. Furthermore, it will help Indigenous and local communities that live in forests to protect them and ensure that business companies take the responsibility for their actions which are damaging our planet. More than 140 civil society organisations will be joined in order to agree on this regulation.

The deforestation problem is growing every day and it seems that there is no solution to this problem so far. Only in 2021, the world lost an area of forest bigger than 25 million hectares. Humanity has already wiped out around 69% of animal populations since 1970 according to the report of WWF and further deforestation could only increase the percentage of this massacre of wildlife, which will affect us all.

The Council agreed to set mandatory due diligence rules for all operators and traders who place, make available or export palm oil, beef, timber, coffee, cocoa and soy, since the production of such products is a cause for almost 90% of deforestation. These rules will also apply to a number of derived products, such as leather, chocolate and furniture. The European Union consumes these products from places outside of Europe, which again brings us to climate colonialism. This means that the developed countries are getting the products and less developed parts of the world, like Brazil and Indonesia, are the first to suffer the consequences of those actions. Equally alarming fact is that this makes the EU the second biggest entity that helps the growth of deforestation in the world, right after China.

Companies will be required to check that their products for the EU market were produced legally and have not been produced on land that was deforested after a certain date (most probably 2020). Companies will be obliged to know exactly where their products are coming from, meaning that they will have to use geo-location coordinates to trace the specific plot of land where the production happened. It is questionable how effective this regulation can be, but some enforcement framework will probably be created with minimum checks on all operators, traders and products and penalties set for wrongdoing to stop the growth of deforestation.

This regulation could help on this matter by including protections for human rights, especially the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and environmental and human rights defenders. The Council strengthened the human rights aspects of the text by adding several references to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Access to justice must be provided for defenders of forests before European courts when there is a violation of human rights. This could encourage them to legally challenge European authorities if they fail to enforce the new legal requirements.

Foto by Đorđe Vukojičić