Brussels, June 28 – In response to national Environment Ministers agreeing their position on the draft EU anti-deforestation law at the EU Environment Council, Giulia Bondi, Senior EU Forests Campaigner at Global Witness, said: 

“EU member states have today missed a crucial opportunity to strengthen a draft law to stop Europe’s role in fuelling deforestation around the world. Under their proposal, big drivers of forest destruction like rubber imports would remain unchecked and banks would continue to be able to get away with financing deforestation. EU countries have also not done enough to fully protect the land rights of Indigenous communities.” 

Environment Ministers meeting today in Luxembourg largely backed the European Commission’s draft anti-deforestation law, supporting restrictions on imports of coffee, soy, cattle (including derived products such as beef and leather), cocoa, oil palm and timber that are linked to deforestation.  

However, they failed to introduce measures to oblige EU banks to conduct due diligence to prevent the financing of deforestation, did not add crucial commodities like rubber to the product list, and made only minimal improvements to stop land grabbing and violence against Indigenous communities. Other critical ecosystems like the Cerrado in Brazil have also been left out from the Council’s agreement.  

Global Witness revealed earlier this month that rubber is the European import that poses the biggest threat to West and Central Africa’s tropical forests. Rubber appeared in early Commission drafts of the law but was removed after tyre industry lobbying. 

Last year, we showed how EU-based financial institutions struck €30.6 billion worth of deals with 20 agribusiness companies accused of deforestation between 2016-2020.  

“EU banks and asset managers are helping drive the destruction of climate-critical forests and the devastation of indigenous and forest communities. The Environment Council’s failure to address this and other weaknesses in the deforestation law means EU governments are not practicing what they preach when it comes to leading on the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and human rights protections,” Bondi continued.  

“All eyes are now on the European Parliament to close these loopholes and raise the ambition of the law if it is to be effective in ending EU-driven deforestation,” she concluded.