On a global scale, forests cover an area of around 4 billion hectares, or 30% of the world's land surface. Their ecological values are indisputable; they protect soil against erosion, provide habitat for countless species, purify the air, can save water, store carbon, regulate the climate, and so on.
Yet deforestation and forest degradation are progressing at an alarming rate, exacerbating climate change and biodiversity loss. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that between 1990 and 2020 420 million hectares of forest - an area larger than the EU - have been lost to deforestation.
The European Union is partly responsible for this; in 2017, it was the second largest destroyer of tropical forests, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), with China in first place. EU imports account for 16% of deforestation linked to world trade.
The expansion of agricultural land to supply basic raw materials such as beef, timber, palm oil, soya, cocoa or coffee is the main factor behind the damage to these woodland ecosystems. Global population growth, with its attendant increase in demand, is likely to put additional pressure on forests. At the same time, changing climate patterns are likely to have an impact on food production.
Aware of these challenges and its role, the European Union has adopted a number of measures to combat illegal logging and imported deforestation (FR). The EU Timber Regulation (EUTR) prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber and timber products on the European market and contributes to strengthening forest governance. However, it does not address the issue of deforestation caused by the expansion of agriculture. This is why 9 member states, including Belgium, have voluntarily joined forces under the Amsterdam Agreement against imported deforestation.
The new European regulation to combat deforestation and forest degradation, EUDR, integrates and expands the two previous European measures. EUTR and EUDR will coexist for a transitional phase of several months to enable operators to adapt to the new requirements. Operators have 18 months (until 30 December 2024) to implement the new obligations contained in this regulation, while micro and small enterprises benefit from an adaptation period of six additional months (until 30 June 2025), with the exception of products listed in the annex of the previous European regulation, EUTR. This regulation will continue to apply until 31 December 2027 to timber and timber products manufactured before 29 June 2023 and placed on the market from 30 December 2024.
The measures in the new regulation meet the objectives of the Green Deal and help to protect biodiversity and the climate by obliging companies to guarantee zero deforestation for the products targeted by the new legislation.