The EU must act by year’s end to address deforestation caused by Europeans’ consumption of products like palm oil, soy, and cocoa. This was the point underscored by the governments of Germany, France, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy and Norway – the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership – in a letter to the European Commission, 1 November 2018. They noted that deforestation continues “at alarming rates, with as much as 80 per cent of global forest loss being driven by expansion of agricultural land”. To meet the UN goal of stopping global deforestation by 2020, the signatories urged the European Commission to quickly produce a roadmap for developing an ambitious EU Action Plan on deforestation – “in the course of 2018.”
This call for action was echoed in France’s National Strategy on Imported Deforestation, released on 14 November 2018, which called for a strong EU Action Plan on deforestation, including “European due diligence legislation for forest risk products”.
Such calls make it clear the EU cannot leave ending deforestation to the good will of economic actors. In October, the UN expressed concerns that Germany’s implementation of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights is inadequate. The UN was particularly worried about the “voluntary nature of [Germany’s] corporate due diligence obligations … regarding respect for human rights”. It recommended that Germany adopt regulatory measures requiring companies to address human rights abuses in their operations both domestically and abroad.
These developments reinforce Fern’s upcoming proposal that the EU should address large-scale deforestation through a due diligence regulation requiring EU companies to respect land tenure rights of local people – especially pertinent since international efforts for a binding treaty on human rights and transnational corporations may be faltering (FW 239).
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