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Statement on European Union Proposal to Require Deforestation-Free Products

December 13, 2021

The Parliament of the World’s Religions fully supports the new proposal by the European Union to require imports of goods and materials to be “deforestation-free.” Worldwide deforestation is a substantial cause of both climate change and loss of biodiversity. Forests produce much of the oxygen we breathe and are home to 80% of Earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. Closed canopy forests alone are home to more than 400 million people, many of whom are indigenous to these lands.

The implementation of the European Union proposal will be a major step forward in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss globally, as well as in protecting the rights and welfare of the 25% of the world’s population who live in and depend on the world’s forests, including the Indigenous peoples for whom their forests are their ancestral lands.

One of the most effective actions individuals can take to reduce climate change is to think of each expenditure we make as a vote for or against a healthy planet. Policies which leverage consumer spending in favor of climate action and sustainability are among the most effective and cost-effective actions governments can take.

Markets for soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee, and derived products such as leather, furniture, and chocolate are major drivers of forest destruction through agricultural expansion. Under the new proposed regulations, products that European Union residents buy, use, and consume will have to come only from lands and supply chains that have not contributed to forest destruction or forest degradation since December 31, 2020.

This proposal sets mandatory due diligence rules for companies seeking to place goods on the 27-country EU market. These rules require proof that the origins and supply chains of all products are deforestation-free; companies not in compliance can be fined up to 4% of their turnover in an EU country. The proposal was announced on November 17th and will need to be approved by the European Parliament and by European member states before coming into force, which is anticipated to be in 2023.

We hope that the EU proposal will serve as an example to all developed countries in which consumer demand contributes to deforestation. As Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said of the proposal, “to succeed in the global fight against the climate and biodiversity crises we must take the responsibility to act at home as well as abroad.”

The Parliament of the World’s Religions is a founding Partner in the Interfaith Rainforest Initiative (IRI), which brings the commitment, influence, and moral authority of religions to efforts to protect the world’s rainforests and the Indigenous peoples who serve as their guardians. We encourage all people, partner organizations, and national sovereignties of goodwill to support the EU proposal and make every effort to enact these regulations in their own lives, constituencies, regions, and countries.

Mr. Nitin Ajmera
Chair of the Board of Trustees,
Parliament of the World’s Religions

Rev. Stephen Avino
Executive Director,
Parliament of the World’s Religions