The European Commission has adopted three new proposals to stop deforestation, manage sustainable waste, make soils healthy for the environment, and promote a circular economy
The European Commission is proposing three new rules to curb EU-caused deforestation, rules to facilitate intra-EU waste shipments, promoting circular economy, and confronting the export of illegal waste to advance the European Green Deal.
The Commission has also proposed a new soil strategy to have all European soils restored, resilient, and adequately protected by 2050.
“Moving to a circular economy, protecting nature, and raising environmental standards”
Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said: “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. Our deforestation regulation answers citizens’ calls to minimise the European contribution to deforestation and promote sustainable consumption.
“Our new rules to govern waste shipments will boost the circular economy and ensure that waste exports do not harm the environment or human health elsewhere. And our soil strategy will allow soil to get healthy, be used sustainably and receive the legal protection it needs.”
The new regulation curbing EU-deforestation and forest degradation guarantee that the products that EU citizens consume on the EU market do not contribute to global deforestation and forest degradation.
The main driver of these courses is agricultural expansion for to the commodities soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee, and some of their derived products, which are currently causing the biggest impact on deforestation.
From only 1990 to 2020, the world has already lost 420 million hectares of forest – an area larger than the European Union. Deforestation harms our planet by eliminating trees, which are carbon sinks, producing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroying natural habitats and biomes.
The Regulation sets mandatory rules for companies which want to place these commodities on the EU market, the Commission now aims to ensure that only deforestation-free and legal products are allowed on the EU market.
Using a benchmarking system to assess countries and their level of risk of deforestation and forest degradation driven by the commodities in the scope of the regulation, the Commission will communicate with big consumer countries to join efforts to tackle this issue.
By promoting the consumption of ‘deforestation-free’ products and reducing the EU’s impact on global deforestation and forest degradation, the new rules are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss.
Finally, tackling deforestation and forest degradation will have positive impacts on local communities, including the most vulnerable people like indigenous peoples, who rely heavily on forest ecosystems.
Under the revised Regulation on waste shipments, the Commission will deliver its circular economy and zero pollution ambitions by proposing stronger rules on waste exports, a more efficient system for the circulation of waste as a resource and determined action against illegal waste trafficking.
Waste trafficking is one of the most serious forms of environmental crime as illegal shipments potentially comprise up to 30% of waste shipments worth €9.5 billion annually.
Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the enforcement regime includes setting up an EU Waste Shipment Enforcement Group, empowering the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF to support transnational investigations by EU Member States on waste trafficking, and providing stronger rules on administrative penalties.
Facilitating waste to re-enter the circular economy
Waste exports to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries will be restricted and only allowed if third countries are willing to receive certain wastes and are able to manage them sustainably.
Waste shipments to OECD countries are now to be monitored and can be suspended if they generate serious environmental problems in the country of destination. Under this new proposal, all EU companies that export waste outside the EU should ensure that the facilities receiving their waste are subject to an independent audit displaying efficient and environmental management of this waste.
The EU’s current dependence on primary raw materials, and its ambitions for decarbonisation of EU industry need to meet the EU’s newer climate objectives. The new rules are also bringing waste shipments to the digital era – in line with the EU’s digital transformation – by introducing electronic exchange of documentation.
Finally, the Commission has also presented a new EU Soil Strategy, in accordance with the European Green Deal and the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030.
Healthy soils are the foundation for 95% of the food we eat, they host more than 25% of the biodiversity in the world, and are the largest terrestrial carbon pool on the planet. However, 70% of soils in the EU are not in a good condition.
The Soil Strategy sets concrete measures for the protection, restoration and sustainable use of soils and proposes a set of voluntary and legally binding measures, to increase the soil carbon in agricultural land, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, and ensure that by 2050, all soil ecosystems are in a healthy condition.
Ensuring the same level of protection to soil that exists for water, the marine environment and air in the EU, a proposal by 2023 for a new Soil Health Law will be put in place to provide societal engagement and financial resources, shared knowledge, and promotes sustainable soil management practices and monitoring, supporting the EU ambition for global action on soil.
Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius added: “If we expect more ambitious climate and environmental policies from partners, we should stop exporting pollution and supporting deforestation ourselves.
“The deforestation and waste shipment regulations we are putting on the table are the most ambitious legislative attempts to tackle these issues worldwide ever. With these proposals, we are taking our responsibility and walking the talk by lowering our global impact on pollution and biodiversity loss.
“We also put forward a ground-breaking EU soil strategy with a strong policy agenda that sets out to grant them the same level of protection as water, marine environment and air.”