News  |  08.07.2022

EU Regulation on deforestation: general approach adopted by EU Council

On 28 June, the Environment Council of the Council of the EU (European Union) adopted a general approach on the proposed EU regulation on imported deforestation which will guide the upcoming negotiations between the European bodies, and which could limit the possibilities of modification. This meeting was chaired by the French Minister for Energy Transition, Mrs Agnès PANNIER-RUNACHER.

EU Regulation on deforestation: general approach adopted by EU Council

After 6 months of discussion within the EU Council, the objective of this meeting was to obtain a "compromise establishing a good balance between ambition and realism of the envisaged provisions".   Thus, several compromise texts on different aspects of the proposed regulation were adopted, notably on the scope of the regulation, definitions, proportionality of the provisions, the administrative burden linked to the implementation of the regulation and cooperation with third countries.

A look back at the work in the EU Council and the next steps

On 24 January 2022, the EU Commission presented its proposal for a regulation on deforestation and forest degradation to the EU Council.

Please feel free to read or re-read the FAQ written by the ATIBT on the Commission's proposal for a regulation.

Following this presentation, the Council of the EU held two orientation debates on the regulation, in its Agriculture and Fisheries configuration on 21 February, and in its Environment configuration on 17 March. An ad hoc working group (consisting of representatives of the environment and agriculture sectors) met a total of twelve times and held substantive discussions on the proposal. As a result of this work, several compromise texts were adopted at the Environment Council on 28 June, constituting the general orientation of the EU Council on the deforestation and forest degradation regulation.

You can download the EU Council's orientation text by clicking here.

A few days before the adoption by the EU Council of a general approach, the ATIBT had shared the position of the forest-based sector on the regulation. You can read or re-read the article by clicking here.

On 12 September 2022, the Parliament should adopt its position during a plenary session. Afterwards, a trialogue can be held between the EU Commission, the EU Council and the EU Parliament.

Main elements of the EU Council compromise text

While the scope (coffee, cocoa, palm oil, soya, beef and timber) proposed by the Commission remains unchanged, we would like to go over the main changes in the compromise text and in particular the elements of the definition of forest degradation that could impact on the timber sector.   

  • Modification of the definition of forest degradation: "structural changes in forest cover, taking the form of conversion of primary forest to plantation forest or other wooded areas". By considering only the conversion of "primary" forests, this definition de facto excludes the degradation of non-primary forests, as well as forest plantations and planted forests. According to this definition it would then be possible to unsustainably exploit exploited, secondary forests and forest plantations or planted forests without this representing degradation.

The ATIBT through its working group on "imported deforestation" proposes: 1) to ban the term "primary forest" in favour of "natural forest"; 2) to stop allowing degradation of anything that is not "primary forest".

  • Removing the reference to "sustainable harvesting operations" for clarity. Indeed, a harvested forest that is not degrading can be considered to be under "sustainable" harvesting.
  • Postponement of the reference date for deforestation: the "cut off date" has been changed from 31 December 2020 to 31 December 2021, which seems to be an unambitious date for forest conservation.
  • Simplification of the due diligence system and elimination of duplication. Only operators (EU marketers) will have to carry out full due diligence, however traders will have to ensure that operators have carried out a due diligence declaration. 
  • Clarification of the requirement to geo-locate all plots of land on which the relevant commodities (i.e wood) were produced, which contain the relevant commodities (i.e wood-based product), or which were used to produce them, and the date or period of production. The principle of real traceability is therefore retained, and a list of all possible parcels of origin for each wood product must be provided. This requirement seems to be very restrictive and even unfeasible for products that have undergone several industrial processes such as panels (plywood, MDF, etc.)
  • Clarification of the country classification system "benchmarking": it was proposed to clarify the text concerning the system of classification of countries into risk categories, in order to strengthen its fairness, transparency, objectivity, predictability and the framework for dialogue with third countries. Indeed, according to the text, the Commission will have to enter into a specific dialogue with all countries classified as high risk, in order to help them reduce their level of risk.
  • Postponement of the entry into force and date of application of the Regulation: application 18 months after adoption (instead of 12 months)

ATIBT and its partners will continue to follow the next steps of the legislative process of the EU regulation against deforestation in order to decipher and analyse the impacts of the regulation for the timber sector. The next date to remember is 12 September 2022 when it will be the European Parliament's turn to adopt its position on the proposed regulation against deforestation.