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EU agrees deal to ban products which fuel deforestation

Forests around the world are increasingly under threat from clearance for timber and agriculture, including soybean and palm oil.

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers and governments reached a deal Tuesday that would ban the import of products that contribute to deforestation around the world.

The preliminary agreement, which still needs to be formally adopted by the EU parliament, requires companies to verify that the goods they sell in the EU have not led to deforestation and forest degradation anywhere in the world as of 2021.

Companies need to show that goods they import comply with rules in the country of origin, including on human rights and the protection of indigenous people.

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Forests around the world are increasingly under threat from clearance for timber and agriculture, including soybean and palm oil. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 420 million hectares (1.6 million square miles) of forest - an area larger than the EU - were destroyed between 1990 and 2020.

Pascal Canfin, who chairs the European Parliament’s environment committee, said the agreement by the 27-nation bloc marks a “world first.”

“Europe will close its doors to the everyday products that have the highest impact on deforestation in the world if their importers are not able to demonstrate, with supporting documents, that they do not come from deforested areas,” he said. "It’s the coffee we drink in the morning, the chocolate we eat, the charcoal we use in our barbecues, the paper in our books. It’s radical, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

More than 100 countries pledged last year to halt and reverse global deforestation by 2030, as part of efforts to combat climate change. Forests are an important natural means of removing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere, since plants absorb carbon dioxide when they grow.

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