A landmark 1,193,652 submissions to the EU's public consultation on deforestation were handed over to the European Commission this afternoon, all of which demanded a strong EU law to protect the world's forests and the rights of people who depend on them. The one million+ submissions have made this the largest public consultation on environmental issues in the history of the EU, and the second largest ever.
Minister Schouten: "We cannot ignore this signal for a strong EU forest law"
On Monday 14 December, the Dutch minister Carola Schouten of Agriculture, Food quality and Nature, symbolically received nearly 1.2 million votes in The Hague for a strong European forest law. “What an impressive result! We cannot just ignore this. We are committed to convert this signal into measures” said the minister.
In Brussels, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans simultaneously received the calls: “We are determined to take serious action to combat deforestation. Not only far away, but also here in Europe. We want to show that every European can do something about deforestation. We need legislation so that people know exactly what they are buying. The ultimate goal must be that products linked to deforestation are no longer for sale in the EU.”
In recent months, Europeans have been able to vote in a so-called public consultation of the European Commission. More than 160 nature and human rights organizations in Europe have campaigned for a strong law with the #Together4Forests campaign. According to the coalition, a European Forest Law is a unique opportunity to stop Europe's involvement in global deforestation.
The Netherlands top importer
Together, the EU Member States are responsible for more than a third of the worldwide imports of products that are linked to deforestation. The European Commission is working on legislation to protect forests and other nature worldwide against this. As a top importer and transit port of soy, palm oil and cocoa, the Netherlands has a great responsibility to stop illegal and legal deforestation. Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Vogel Bescherming Netherlands, IUCN NL, Both ENDS and Tropenbos International have called on the minister to take the lead in Brussels and urge other member states to support a strong Forest Law.
Ambitious EU regulatory framework is needed
A recent published position paper outlines the views from Tropenbos International on a new European regulatory framework. We see that for the EU to substantially reduce its contribution to global deforestation and play a leading role in achieving the Paris climate targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ambitious intervention measures are needed. These measures need to discourage unsustainable practices and encourage the fair and sustainable production, trade and consumption of commodities. This can be achieved only through an ambitious EU regulatory framework that has a smart mix of three components: (1) strong legislative demand-side measures; (2) additional supporting measures; and (3) partnerships with strong supply-side measures. This framework should be part of a wider set of measures to push for the required structural changes of international value chains in order to contribute to the SDGs and international climate goals and to reduce pressures on forest frontiers in the long term.