In this newsletter, various topics are discussed, such as the ongoing reflections at EU level on imported deforestation and the role of certification in due diligence.
Like the previous editions of the Clientearth EUTR newsletter, this issue will include information on what both the European Commission and EU Member States are doing to ensure the proper application of the EUTR and provide updates on similar legislation internationally.
Deforestation imported into the EU and the future of the EUTR
The newsletter begins with the upcoming proposal for a regulation on deforestation and underlines the blurred lines for the future of the EUTR. During a webinar hosted by Fern, the representative of the European Commission’s Environmental Directorate, Mr Hugo-Maria Schally, explained the Commission may propose new legal solutions regarding the regulation of the timber trade in the EU which could involve a future merger of the EUTR with the new regulation on deforestation.
In the Multi-stakeholder Platform meeting, the Commission also stated that it found the interim findings regarding voluntary partnerships agreements under the FLEGT Regulation to be underwhelming and mooted the possibility of using alternative mechanisms such as Forest Partnerships without the FLEGT licensing element.
Related to this topic, the newsletter relays also the NGOs statement on strengthening FLEGT and Forest Partnerships, and the publication of a WWF report on stepping up the enforcement of the EUTR.
ClientEarth analysis: Analysis of the role of certification schemes in the context of EUTR obligations
As explained and first introduced in the previous Newsletter in March this year, Clientearth now include a new feature in addition to the regular Newsletter items: a section where ClientEarth identifies an important and topical EUTR-related issue and provide a brief legal analysis of it for information.
Clientearth analyses the role that certification schemes can potentially play in helping timber operators to comply with their EUTR obligations to assess and mitigate the risk of placing illegally harvested timber on the EU market.
After recalling what a third party certification system was, Clientearth reminds the Commission has acknowledged the need to more clearly identify the role of certification schemes in helping economic operators to meet their EUTR obligations and have commissioned a study (carried out by Preferred by Nature, formerly NEPCon). This study suggests that the Commission is giving serious consideration to the role such schemes can play under the EUTR.
One of the main phases of a due diligence process is the investigation on the compliance with applicable legislation, which can be conducted with the use of relevant certification or other third-party-verified schemes (Article 6(1)(b) of EUTR). Additionally, third-party verification may also be included to help mitigate the risk of illegally harvested timber being placed on the EU market (Article 6(1)(c) of EUTR).
However, the responsibility for ensuring compliance with the EUTR does not pass from the operator to a certifying organization, as the operator is always accountable for verifying the scope and credibility of the auditing process. Entities placing timber on the EU market for the first time must still conduct due diligence. Compliance is ultimately the responsibility of timber operators and certification is just one tool that can be considered in the risk assessment and mitigation process, but in no way releases those operators from their obligations to comply.
Related to this topic, the newsletter relays a guide for the timber industry on handling certified wood and wood products under the EUTR published by Preferred by Nature (formerly NEPCon) in May 2021.
We reminf that ATIBT offered webinars on the role of forest certification in the EUTR, whose presentations and replays are available here in 5 languages (French, English, Spanish, Italian and Dutch).
The newsletter also shares other information, and it is available here.