Mighty Earth is celebrating a decision made by the European Parliament, which this week voted to strengthen legislation preventing goods linked to deforestation from being sold in the EU. Lobbying from Mighty Earth means natural rubber is on that list.
The draft law, initially put forward by the European Commission, requires companies to undertake due dilligence checks to ensure products sold in the EU have not been derived from agricultural commodities grown on cleaned forest land. Agricultural expansion is responsible for almost 90% of global deforestation, and the EU is the second biggest importer of agricultural goods behind China.
Mighty Earth welcomed the draft legislation as a “major leap forward”, but said that the Commission had “notable gaps and weaknesses”. Amongst these were a narrow definition of forest, the failure to require due dilligence measures with regards to protecting human rights and Indigenous Peoples’ rights and a low level of coverage of the types of products that will be covered under the law.
Under the Commission’s proposals the range of goods subject to due dilligence checks would be limited to six commodities: cattle, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, soy and wood products. Limiting the scope of the legislation to these six commodities would leave the EU vulnerable to significant amounts of imported deforestation from other goods, Mighty Earth said.
The significance of the development should not be underestimated, Mighty Earth said, but reported that the Commission omitted natural rubber. The expansion of natural rubber plantations has had a great impact on forests over the past 20 years, particularly in Southeast Asia and West Africa. Between 2003 and 2017, over five million hectares of tropical forest were cleared for rubber plantations, 70% of which is consumed by the tyre industry.
Compared to companies dealing in products such as soy, cocoa and palm oil the tyre industry has lagged behind in developing systems for tracing the origins of the natural rubber and ensuring deforestation-free supply chains.
The process will take place during the autumn, leading to a final version of EU regulation on deforestation-free products, likely at the end of this year.
Stay up-to-date on the latest industry news and developments in our magazine.