According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 420 million hectares of forest (an area larger than the European Union) have been deforested between 1990-2020 and it is estimated that at least 10 per cent of the products that are grown on deforested land end up in the European Union.
That has increased discontent from European citizens and the pressure of different environmental and animal welfare organisations on the government. One of the most relevant civil actions happened in September 2020 when Greenpeace activists hacked the main building of the European Commission with a large banner accusing Europe of participating in the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
This organization together with WWF and ClientEarth started the #Together4Forests campaign and managed to collect more than a million signatures to demand a legislative proposal from the European Commission in this regard. A year later, the Commission introduced the proposal that seeks to contribute to reducing the EU’s impact on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Exactly two years after the action, the proposal was not only approved by the European Parliament with a vote of 453 votes in favour but also the MEPs made important amendments.
The proposal filed by the Commission aims to guarantee European consumers that the products they buy do not contribute to the destruction of forests, including tropical forests anywhere in the world, forcing companies to verify the so-called “due diligence”. The original text included beef, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soybeans, and wood, including products that contain, have been fed, or have been made from these commodities (such as leather, chocolate, and furniture). However, the European Parliament has been more ambitious by annexing other products such as corn, meat from other animals (pork, sheep, goat, poultry) and products such as coal and printed paper that were not in the initial text.
Similarly, MEPs included in the “due diligence” not only environmental issues, but also are also taking into account human rights and the protection of indigenous populations. The Parliament insisted that the products must not have been produced on deforested land after December 31, 2019, a year earlier than the Commission proposed.
Another interesting aspect of the text is that it involves an obligation for financial institutions that could be subject to additional requirements to ensure that their activities do not contribute to deforestation.
The proposal now continues its ordinary legislative procedure and enters what is known as the tripartite dialogues between the Parliament, the European Council and the Commission in order to reach agreements that allow the approval of the text. Throughout the negotiations, the document may be subject to variations and amendments. It is worth saying that in the midst of the discussions, the proposal already lost some key elements, such as the creation of a remediation fund to provide support to forest communities, which could have been an enormous opportunity for the EU to contribute to the reconstruction of affected ecosystems.
SOS Animals Colombia celebrates this victory since it represents a strong message from the European Parliament against deforestation that greatly affects Colombia. It is also positive that they included products such as corn and other types of meat. Brazil, for example, is a major exporter of meat to the EU, much of which comes from deforested areas.
The approval of this regulation benefits thousands of threatened species due to the loss of their habitats while it discourages animal agriculture since it hinders the trade of products such as soybeans and corn, which are used to feed animals.
“Although it would not directly affect Colombia since our country does not export large volumes of the mentioned products to the European Union, the message is strong: First of all, the voice of civil society does matter, millions of citizens and hundreds of non-governmental organizations pushed for it, and secondly, it is a bold call to other governments to start seeing ecosystems and biodiversity as a topic of global interest. Without a doubt, through international trade restrictions much can be achieved for the environment and animals.” Said Cecilia Angulo, director of SOS Animals Colombia.