Parliament resolves to tackle EU’s role in driving illegal deforestation through imports of agro-commodities

Friday, April 21st, 2017

On 4th April, the EU Parliament passed a ‘Resolution’ calling for action by the world’s largest economic bloc to urgently address tropical deforestation, including regulations to address the EU’s role in driving the destruction through its imports of agricultural commodities grown on illegally deforested land.

The EU Parliament report repeatedly cited a 2014 study for Forest Trends written by Earthsight’s Director, Sam Lawson, which showed that nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture and that this destruction is driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities, including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. The legislators described themselves as being ‘alarmed’ by the associated findings by forests and rights NGO Fern, which estimated that a quarter of all illegal deforestation commodities were destined for the EU.

The resolution received near-unanimous support from the Parliament’s Environment Committee, which includes representatives from across the political spectrum and all EU member states. Though the Resolution was focused mainly on palm oil, it recognised the need for action by the EU in relation to other agricultural commodity imports linked to deforestation, such as soy and beef.

The Resolution calls on the European Commission to urgently develop an EU Action Plan on Deforestation which would “include concrete regulatory measures to ensure that no supply chains and financial transactions linked to the EU result in deforestation and forest degradation”.

The Parliament specifically called on the EU to enact new laws regarding forest-risk agricultural commodity imports along the lines of those already passed on timber. The 2010 EU Timber Regulation banned the import of illegally-sourced wood and required importers to carry out due diligence on wood purchases. Associated laws allow for the EU to implement bilateral agreements with source countries which seek to ensure that only legal wood can be traded. As well as blocking illegal wood, these agreements have led to wider improvements in governance and transparency in source countries.

Fern Campaign Co-ordinator Saskia Ozinga welcomed the Parliament’s vote but stressed the need for urgent follow-up. “This Resolution sends a strong message that one of the world’s largest markets for agricultural commodities will no longer tolerate its imports contributing to tropical deforestation. But on its own it won’t do anything. It is essential that the EU turn this statement of intent into meaningful action”, she said.