Good news for the rainforest:
EU aims for strong measures against deforestation
Members of the European Parliament voted in favor of a deforestation law banning the import of deforestation products and providing increased protection for indigenous peoples.
"This victory is an important step towards the protection of indigenous peoples and the rainforest. Only one third of the world's original rainforests are still intact. It is crucial that Europe takes responsibility and stops buying deforestation products so that we protect the forest we have left," says Nils Hermann Ranum, head of the Zero Deforestation Program in the Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted today to regulate companies' trade in products that lead to deforestation and violations of human rights, indigenous peoples' rights in particular. The vote mirrored a recent opinion poll among Europeans which showed that over 80% believed that deforestation products should be banned.
MEPs had the majority of Europeans behind them when they voted for a strong deforestation law today. People want to be able to be sure that what they buy has not contributed to deforestation.
The final text will now be negotiated by the Parliament, the Commission and the Council, which consists of the national governments of the member states. It is expected that this process will be concluded by the end of the year.
The right of indigenous people to free, prior and informed consent will, as the law currently stands, be a prerequisite for importing products into the EU.
The European Parliament voted for a broader list than first proposed of goods and products covered by the law. This applies to, among other things, palm oil, soya, coffee, cocoa, cattle, leather, wood, rubber and corn.
Controversy over leather and deforestation
Right up until the very end, it was unclear whether the import of leather would be covered by the legislation. Cattle is by far the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon. As much as 80 percent of the leather is exported, and Europe is a major importer. Despite the fact that leather is the raw material with the highest deforestation risk, the European leather industry has carried out intense lobbying to have leather removed from regulation.
As recently as last week, the Rainforest Foundation, together with a number of other organisations, sent a letter to MEPs outlining why leather must be included. Read the letter here.
"We are very relieved that the EU Parliament recognizes the great responsibility Europe has for deforestation in the Amazon through its import of leather from Brazil, and that the EU's elected representatives have resisted pressure from the leather industry," Ranum says.
Deforestation is skyrocketing ahead of Brazil election
While the EU debates deforestation legislation, the Brazilian presidential election is fast approaching. In recent years, deforestation has skyrocketed, violence against indigenous peoples and environmental defenders has escalated and institutions protecting the rainforests have had budgets slashed.
"Regardless of who wins the elections in Brazil, a new government will face a huge task to reduce deforestation", says Ranum.
A change of course will depend on players also outside Brazil's own borders, Ranum adds.
"The international community must change the way we relate to Brazil. It is crucial that the EU introduces legislation that hits the mark. This is now well on its way."