Deforestation and forest degradation are important sources of biodiversity loss, greenhouse gas emissions and human rights abuses. It is widely understood that EU consumption destructs tropical forests around the globe; the EU has therefore the responsibility to urgently act. Voluntary steps to make supply chains deforestation-free are not sufficient to address the problem of imported deforestation.
Tropenbos International has been calling for ‘a smart mix of measures’, including binding EU regulation for many years, amongst others through our position papers, EU consultations, in discussions with the Dutch government, and as accepted member of the EU multi-stakeholder platform with focus on deforestation and forest degradation, with a direct link to the European Commission.
The European Commission has just published (17 November 2021) its proposal for a Regulation to curb EU-driven deforestation and forest degradation. As Tropenbos International, we welcome this proposal, as part of a broader smart mix of measures, and expect this set of binding rules to be an ambitious and effective land-mark instrument resulting tangible impact on forests and future generations.
However, the proposal is just a first step in the right direction and more will be needed to make the regulatory framework effective. To create a regulatory framework that really combats deforestation, it is crucial that the EU Regulation is smallholder inclusive and has strong supportive measures through partnerships with producing countries.
The EU Regulation should therefore be smallholder inclusive and take account of the rights and roles of smallholders, and the underlying causes of smallholder deforestation such as poor land and forest governance, and lack of access to land, income, information, finance, markets and social justice. In a recent briefing paper, Tropenbos International jointly with other NGOs, emphasises that smallholder inclusion will not water down the ambition of the EU Regulatory proposal. Instead, smallholder inclusion will make the Regulation more effective, while improving social justice.
Despite the fact that smallholders produce a significant amount of imported cocoa and palm oil, the proposal does not consider how to ensure smallholders are able to comply with the regulation. Therefore, agreements between the EU and producer countries should include plans to support smallholders. As such, we encourage the Commission’s acknowledgement for the need for partnerships with producing countries. This will require further detailing. It is key that such partnerships go beyond dialogue to ensure that measures in producing countries are effective. The EU should ensure strong supportive measures for working in coalition with local communities, smallholders and local governments to enhance governance, enforcement and build producers’ capacities.