European Parliament approves new rule against products from deforestation areas

14 setembro 2022


Proposed law protects the Cerrado and other ecosystems, requires traceability to the farm, and includes respect for indigenous peoples' rights. The approval comes at a time of record deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado

By WWF-Brazil


By 453 votes against 53, the European Parliament approved an ambitious proposal for a law banning the commercialisation in European Union of products originating from deforested areas in any part of the planet. Parliament's position also includes the European financial sector, which has supported deforestation around the world. According to the proposal approved, everyone will have to comply with a set of rules that prevent the commercialisation in the EU of products linked to deforestation. MEPs also want companies to verify that goods are produced in accordance with human rights provisions in international law and respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Production must also respect the legislation in the country of origin, and in the case of Brazil, studies show that more than 90% occurs illegally.
 
“The European Union's measures will prevent the entry of products that are directly or indirectly related to the deforestation of important Brazilian biomes, such as the Amazon, the Cerrado and the Pantanal, and are a clear signal to the productive sector that environmental protection and human rights are mandatory items in international business”, says Jean-François Timmers, WWF Policy and Advocacy manager, Deforestation and Conversion-free Supply Chains.
 
“This is an incentive to separate the wheat from the chaff in Brazilian agribusiness, an opportunity for deserved commercial distinction between those who act with socio-environmental responsibility and within the law, those who invade and grab land, violate rights, deforest and burn illegally. These producers until then sell their products in the same markets and without major restrictions. Finally, the good side of agribusiness - which form most of the sector - will be duly recognised by importers. Contrary to what has been said by some members of the federal government and by lobbyists representing the interests of companies, of land grabbers and of producers who favour deforestation, there will be no interruption or boycott of products for the vast majority of Brazilian producers who do the right thing", says Frederico Machado, leader of WWF-Brazil's Zero Conversion strategy.
 
Contrary to the request of the current Brazilian government, the proposal does not distinguish between legal and illegal deforestation. This will prevent legislative changes that could relax protection rules, such as those under discussion in the National Congress, from expanding the areas that can be legally deforested, which would make the new European rule ineffective, as it aims precisely to eliminate deforestation resulted from expansion of agriculture. This rule greatly benefits Brazil, which has production technology, public transparency systems (such as Prodes Amazônia and Prodes Cerrado, CAR System, SIGEF/Incra). The country has also immense tracts of land that have already been deforested, and where the current agricultural production could be multiplied by 3 or 4 at the very least, without having to cut down a single tree. It has also been widely proven that deforestation is one of the major drivers of climate change, reducing rainfall, which is essential to ensure good production in the field.
  
Another important advance was the inclusion of “other wooded lands” in addition to forests in the text of the law. This means that products from deforestation of almost the entire length of the Brazilian Cerrado, for example, will also be banned. For that purpose, the new law also requires a greater number of product verifications, clearer definitions for important terms such as “forest degradation” and comprises a wider range of products, which goes beyond beef and soy, including cocoa, coffee, palm oil and wood, as well as products derived from these agricultural activities, such as leather, chocolate and products that used soy, for instance.
 
MEPs established that products must not have been produced on lands which were deforested after 31 December 2019 - a cut-off date one year earlier than the one proposed by the European Commission. This means that importing companies will start to verify (the so-called “due diligence”) that the products sold in the EU have not been produced on deforested or degraded land as of this date. The measure aims to ensure that European consumers are not, indirectly and involuntarily, contributing to the destruction of natural ecosystems related to the opening of new areas for agribusiness. Deforestation is one of the main threats to biodiversity and one of the biggest sources of emissions of the gases that are accelerating the climate crisis.
 
The approval of the proposal comes at a time of record deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado in August: 1,661 km², an area 81% higher than that recorded in August last year, according to data from the DETER System, of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). This number is the second largest in the system's historical series, which began in 2016, and was only surpassed by August 2020, also during the Bolsonaro government, when deforestation in the biome reached 1,714 km². From January 1st to August 31st, deforestation alerts were 52.1% higher than the historical average of DETER for the period. The Cerrado, in turn, loses more than two thousand hectares of native vegetation per day.
 
On the other hand, there are around 38 million hectares of deforested land in the Cerrado which are suitable for expanding soy production. This is practically equivalent to the total area of ​​soybean plantation in Brazil. In other words, with a smarter use of land that has already been cleared, soy production could almost double in the Cerrado alone, not to mention the millions of hectares already cleared and with low productivity available in other biomes.
 
It is also important to point out that we already have good inspirations in Brazil on how to implement policies of zero deforestation (legal and illegal), without compromising productive expansion. One of the great world examples is exactly the Soy Moratorium in the Amazon, which since its inception, in 2006, has allowed the expansion of soy production in the biome by more than 400% (occupying mainly degraded pastures), without a relevant deforestation impact.
 
From now on, the text of the law will be discussed in a tripartite dialogue between the European Parliament, the Commission, and the Council of Europe, for approval of a definitive text, expected to be promulgated at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year.
 
The text approved today is the result of an unprecedented outcry from European citizens: more than 200,000 people sent messages to Members of the European Parliament asking for the protection of natural ecosystems. There was also an appeal from people originating in countries that export to Europe, including people from Brazil, who even have their own lives threatened by the process of advancing agricultural production on their communities and areas of native vegetation.
 
Last week, Rede Cerrado delivered the “Charter of the Peoples of the Cerrado” to European MEPs, governments, and the private sector, demanding ambitious legislation that has the capacity to eliminate deforestation in the Cerrado. This letter was signed by more than 130 community-based organisations, civil society and academic groups.
 
Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Director of Forestry Policy at the WWF European Policy Office: “The vote in Parliament today for a strong deforestation law was a clear yes: a yes to reducing the EU's footprint and a yes to protecting forests and savannas and the rights of indigenous peoples and traditional communities around the world. It was also a yes to the appeals of EU citizens who do not want to feed the destruction of nature through their consumption”.

 

About WWF-Brazil

WWF-Brazil is a Brazilian NGO that for 26 years has been working collectively with partners from civil society, universities, governments and companies across the country to combat socio-environmental degradation and defend the lives of people and nature. We are connected in an interdependent network that seeks urgent solutions to the climate emergency.
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