Less than two weeks after entry into force of the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products (EUDR), civil society organisations urge EU Member States to learn valuable lessons from the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) and take urgent steps to effectively implement and enforce the new law.
The letter was signed by 30 organisations from across EU Member States and producer countries and will be sent to the Ministers of the Environment, Ministers of Agriculture, and Ministers of Finance of all EU Member States throughout the summer.
Date: 10 July 2023
On behalf of the undersigned organisations
Ministers of the Environment of all EU Member States
Ministers of Agriculture of all EU Member States
Ministers of Finance of all EU Member States
(See Annex A. of the PDF version of the letter for the full list of recipients)
Call for EU Member States to take urgent steps to properly implement and enforce the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products (EUDR)
We, the undersigned organisations, congratulate the EU and its Member States on the historic passing of the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products (EUDR). As you know, the EUDR prohibits certain products linked to deforestation or forest degradation worldwide from being placed on or exported from the EU market, and requires importers and big retailers to take steps to minimise any risks that their products are linked to such destruction.
When the law came into force on 29 June 2023, more than 150 civil society organisations signed a statement outlining obligations on Member States in the first 18 months of the law.
We, the undersigned organisations, are now writing to emphasise once again that the proper implementation and enforcement of the EUDR in every EU Member State is a major priority. Without it, the EUDR will fail.
We therefore call on you to establish a competent and functionally independent enforcement agency, allocate sufficient resources, enact strong national penalties, ensure consistent enforcement of the law, provide training and raise awareness, and cooperate with third countries.
The regulation acknowledges that the expansion of agricultural land, particularly as it relates to the commodities listed in Annex I, is occurring at an alarming rate, aggravating climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Succeeding in meeting the regulation’s objective of curbing deforestation and forest degradation that is provoked by EU consumption and production is absolutely critical to reversing these trends.
The EUDR is the first law of its kind globally. It will serve as an important international benchmark for other major consumers of so-called ‘forest-risk commodities’.
There will be no time for trial and error. The world’s climate and biodiversity are on the brink, and scientists have issued a “final warning” on the climate crisis. The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has called addressing climate change “the greatest responsibility and opportunity of our times.”
Past experience shows it is essential that, from day one, Member States do all they can to properly implement and enforce the EUDR. The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR), which inspired the EUDR and is set to be replaced by it, sought to halt imports of wood into Europe which had been illegally harvested. It came into effect a decade ago, but according to the EU’s own 2021 study, it had “no significant effect on the volume of timber imported from known high-risk sources.” NGOs and journalists too have exposed cases of imported illegal wood time and time again since the EUTR’s enactment.
In short, the EUTR has failed to achieve its aim. We cannot afford for the EUDR to follow the same path.
One of the key causes of this failure identified in the 2021 EU study was the inconsistency between Member States over compliance checks and penalties issued for rule breaking. Many of the staff of the relevant EUTR Competent Authorities are trying their hardest. But they are operating in an impossible environment. They are given insufficient resources, discouraged from applying the most serious penalties, hamstrung by prosecutors and judges who are insufficiently trained on the issue at hand, and undermined by the failure of other parts of government to share information.
If the EUDR is to have an actual impact – which is so urgently needed – each Member State ought to learn from the lessons of the EUTR.
The Commission, European Parliament and the Council have already laid the groundwork for this. They have ensured that the EUDR includes a raft of measures meant to improve how EU countries enforce it. The regulation sets mandatory minimum numbers for the compliance checks that authorities in Member States must carry out, gives specific guidance on what constitutes a sufficiently dissuasive penalty, and formalises cooperation with customs authorities. It also includes detailed demands for what information national enforcement agencies need to collect, provide to the Commission and publish. Transgressors will now be named in a public list of final judgments. In addition, third parties can have the performance of national enforcement authorities reviewed in court if they fail in their duties.
While these improvements are welcome, on their own they will be insufficient to ensure a different outcome to that of the EUTR. What is needed most, is the will of each and every Member State to properly implement and strictly enforce the law. It is essential that this commitment is visible from the very beginning and comes from the most senior leaders of Member States.
Another key aspect of the regulation is Article 30, on the cooperation with third countries. It is essential that this cooperation supports the development and implementation of producer countries’ public traceability systems of agriculture and forestry goods, as well as sound forest governance.
Without that, goods driving deforestation may simply be diverted to other markets, undermining the effectiveness of the law.To ensure the effective enforcement of the EU Deforestation Regulation, we urge you to take the following immediate actions:
- Send a clear message: Provide a clear, high-level message to relevant authorities involved in enforcement that a firm and rigorous approach is expected and will be supported. The message should also highlight that it is to be expected that in some cases compliance will be impossible to demonstrate and that in such cases such goods must be blocked from the EU market until further steps are taken.
- Allocate sufficient resources: Provide the necessary funding and staffing to enforcement authorities to conduct rigorous compliance checks and conduct investigations.
- Establish strong penalties: Lay down strict national rules to establish penalties for non-compliance that are effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Strict penalties should deter companies from violating the regulation.
- Ensure consistent application: Ensure that there is consistency in the application of the Regulation within each Member State and good alignment among Member States.
- Provide training and raise awareness: Ensure that staff tasked with the implementation and enforcement of the regulation are well trained in technical and legal aspects of the law. This includes Competent Authority staff as well as the judiciary and prosecutors. Mobilise campaigns to raise awareness and create pressure for compliance.
- Cooperate with third countries: Support the development and implementation of producer countries’ public traceability systems of agriculture and forestry goods, as well as sound forest governance to ensure the law will deliver its aim to contribute to halt deforestation, forest degradation and human rights violations of the mentioned supply chains.
A detailed legal analysis on the key obligations for EU Member States under the EUDR is available and would support authorities’ efforts to deliver their mandate.
We urge you to take decisive action. The consequences of inaction are dire, not only for forests and biodiversity but also for the climate and the well-being of communities that depend on these ecosystems.
We stand ready to collaborate with you in the implementation and enforcement of the EU Deforestation-Free Products Regulation to help fulfil its transformative potential.
BirdLife Sweden, Sweden
Comité Schone Lucht, Netherlands
Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., Germany
Earthsight, United Kingdom
Ecologistas en Acción, Spain
Ecumenical academy (Ekumenická akademie), Czech Republic
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), United Kingdom
Focus Association for Sustanable Development, Slovenia
Forests of the World, Denmark
Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany
Green Transition Denmark, Denmark
Latvian Ornithological Society, Latvia
Mighty Earth, USA
NGO ForestCom, Ukraine
Nyt Europa, Denmark
One tree one nose, Uganda
Palm oil watch, Czech Republic
Polski Klub Ekologiczny w Krakowie Koło Miejskie w Gliwicach, Poland
Protect the Forest, Sweden
Rainforest Foundation Norway, Norway
ROBIN WOOD e.V., Germany
Save Estonia's Forests, Estonia
Save-Elephants, z.s., Czech Republic
ZERO - Asociação Sistema Terrestre Sustentável, Portugal