'End consumer complicity': Deforestation counter installed on EU Council building

'End consumer complicity': Deforestation counter installed on EU Council building
The banner on the EU Council building. Credit: Johanna de Tessières / Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists installed a live deforestation counter on an EU Council building while ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the Commission’s proposal on deforestation-free products.

Six climbers from the Belgium branch of the organisation scaled the facade of the EU Council headquarters in Brussels to display a live counter of the amount of forest destroyed around the world. Environment ministers are meeting to discuss a proposed EU law to ensure products consumed on the EU market do not contribute to deforestation worldwide.

"The new law proposed by the Commission could really curb our complicity in global deforestation. We are calling o the ministers to defend a strong law to ensure that when we do our shopping, we don’t unwillingly and unknowingly contribute to deforestation," Greenpeace EU agriculture and forest campaigner Sini Eräjää told The Brussels Times.

"The meeting will be ongoing throughout the day, and our banner will be reminding them that while they keep talking, we are still losing forests," she said.

According to the organisation, a forest area the size of a football pitch disappears every two seconds. "If ministers talk for about an hour and a half, we have lost a forest area of around 1,750 hectares, or half the size of the city of Brussels, so that’s what we want to remind them about," Eräjää said.

Protect citizens, not corporations

As it stands, the Commission's proposal includes rules for operators dealing with commodities such as soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee, which are associated with deforestation, stating that goods derived from these products and linked to the felling of trees would no longer be sold in the EU Member States.

Various other activist organisations have already called on ministers to improve upon the Commission’s proposed law to cut the EU’s contribution to global forest destruction.

They argued that the proposal inadequately protects human rights, provides no protection to ecosystems other than forests, like wetlands and savannahs and leaves out many products that have a high impact on nature like pork, chicken, maize and rubber.

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Greenpeace wants the law to ensure that all goods driving ecosystem destruction can be traced back to the plot of land where they were produced; however, corporations selling such products linked to deforestation are lobbying against these requirements, while European governments from forest-rich countries are threatening to undermine parts of the law to protect these companies.

"If this law is strong enough, it will have a large impact on all of our lives. When we buy products in supermarkets, from meatballs to cookies to coffee, we might be complicit in deforestation through our consumption, but we get a strong law, then people can do shopping without having to worry if we are contributing to disruption," Eräjää said.

"We hope the ministers will defend citizens' interests and don’t find loopholes for their favourite industries," she concluded.

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