The EU Parliament’s proposal for a Regulation on Forest and Ecosystem Risk Commodities - Tackling global deforestation though due diligence - By Enrico Partiti

Editor's note: Enrico Partiti is Assistant Professor of Transnational Regulation and Governance at Tilburg University and Associate Fellow at the Asser Institute. His expertise centres on European and international economic law, sustainability and supply chain regulation. In particular, he studies how private standard-setters and corporations regulate globally sustainability and human rights 

Upcoming Event: Fighting global deforestation through due diligence: towards an EU regulation on forest and ecosystem risk commodities? - 4 November 2020 - 16:00 (CET) - Register Here!

The recent vote in the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of the European Parliament on binding legislation to stop EU-driven global deforestation is a watershed moment in the global fight against deforestation, ecosystem conversion and associated human rights violations. The ENVI Committee report, that will soon be voted by the plenary, requests the Commission (as provided in Art. 225 TFEU) to table a legislative proposal for a measure disciplining the placing on the EU market of products associated to forest and ecosystem conversion and degradation, as well as violations of indigenous communities’ human rights. The Parliament’s initiative takes place in a policy context increasingly concerned with deforestation, in the framework of a Commission Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests which left a door open for legislative intervention. 

The proposed measure would aim to severe the economic link between demand of agricultural commodities, especially by large consumers markets, and negative environmental impacts - including on climate change. Beef, soy and palm oil alone are responsible for 80% of tropical deforestation, and consequent CO2 emissions. In 2014, EU demand was responsible for 41% of global imports of beef, 25% of palm oil and 15% of soy, as well as large shares of other commodities at high risk for forests and ecosystems such as such as maize (30%), cocoa (80%), coffee (60%), and rubber (25%). Protecting just forests is not sufficient, as it risks to displace conversion to other non-forests ecosystems such as the Brazilian cerrado. In light of their negative impact on both forests and other natural ecosystems, such commodities have been labeled as forest and ecosystem risks commodities (FERCs). More...

New Event! Fighting global deforestation through due diligence: towards an EU regulation on forest and ecosystem risk commodities? - 4 November 2020 - 16:00 (CET)

Between 2010 and 2015, 7.6 million hectares of forests were lost every year. Deforestation not only causes immense biodiversity loss, but it also has extremely negative repercussions on climate change. Hence, deforestation is one of the world’s most pressing global challenges. 

This online event will discuss the EU Parliament’s new initiative to tackle deforestation. It will examine the initiative’s substance, possible implications for fighting deforestation across the globe, and possible means for enforcement and their challenges, as well as its impact on EU obligations under international (trade) law.


Research has shown that agricultural production is a major driver of deforestation. The majority of global tree cover loss between 2000 and 2015 was caused by agricultural production, and another quarter was due to forestry activities. Furthermore, a large proportion of forest clearance occurs in breach of local legal and administrative requirements. However, only half of the total tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2012 was caused by illegal conversion. Weak enforcement of forest laws in certain countries further compounds the problem of relying on legality as a meaningful threshold to stop conversion for agricultural purposes, especially where political leaders wilfully reduce law enforcement and conservation efforts to favour agribusiness. 

To tackle these closely intertwined concerns, the EU is in the process of enhancing its policies on global deforestation linked to EU imports. In addition to the existent Timber Regulation, assessing the legality of timber origin, and the Renewable Energy Directive, establishing sustainability requirements for biofuel crops, the EU is considering several regulatory and non-regulatory interventions. Among the most profound measures, the EU Parliament is about to approve a ground-breaking Resolution that will require the Commission to propose an EU Regulation ensuring that only agricultural commodities and derived products that are not linked to deforestation, ecosystem conversion and associated human rights violations are marketed in the EU. Building on the Timber Regulation and human rights due diligence responsibilities as prescribed in the United Nation Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the proposal would require economic operators to implement the obligation via non-financial due diligence ensuring that products do not originate from converted forests and ecosystems, regardless of the legality of land-use conversion.


  • Delara Burkhardt, European Parliament’s Rapporteur for a Motion for an EU Parliament Resolution with recommendations to the Commission on an EU legal framework to halt and reverse EU-driven global deforestation (her draft report is available here).

  • Andrea Carta, Senior legal strategist at Greenpeace, EU Unit

  • Enrico Partiti, Assistant professor in transnational regulation and governance, Tilburg University

  • Meriam Wortel, Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority

The discussion will be moderated by Antoine Duval, Senior researcher at the Asser Institute and coordinator of the ‘Doing business right’ project. 

Click here to register for this online discussion.

Towards a ‘due diligence’ jurisprudence: The EU Timber Regulation’s requirements in courts - By Wybe Th. Douma

Editor’s note: Wybe Th. Douma is senior researcher in EU law and international trade law at the Asser Institute


Although the placing of illegally harvested timber on the EU internal market is prohibited already for over four years, the first court cases are appearing only now. Judges in Sweden and The Netherlands have recently held that the due diligence requirements of the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) had not been met by two importing companies. The companies should have ensured that the timber from Myanmar and Cameroon was logged in compliance with the local legislation, should have provided extensive evidence of this, especially where the countries in question are prone to corruption and governance challenges, and should have adopted risk mitigation measures. Moreover, another Dutch court recently ordered the Dutch competent authorities to explain why they did not enforce the EUTR in cases where due diligence requirements concerning timber imported from Brazil were not met. In other EU member states, similar court decisions were adopted.[1]

The court decisions show that the EUTR system, aimed at ‘doing business right’ in the timber trade sector, is starting to take effect in practice. Could the ‘unilateral’ EUTR system form an example for other regimes that try to ensure that trade by the EU with the rest of the world contributes to sustainable development and the protection of human rights? And what role does the bilateral Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) between the EU and Indonesia play in this respect? More...