The European Commission is prepared to take a step back on geolocation requirements

The European Commission is ready to back down on the requirement for geolocation of all forest biomass in the Deforestation regulation. This is stated in a letter from the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission, Virginijus Sinkevičius to the Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA).

- It is great news that the European Commission notes that they are ready to back down. However, we do not know how much they are prepared to back down and how they define it, Carina Christiansen from North Sweden European Office states and adds that she hopes they will clarify this as early as possible so that companies can understand what is required of them. 

In January 2024, Northern Sparsely Populated Areas (NSPA), that represents EU's northern sparsely populated areas and northern Norway, sent a letter to the Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, to raise several unresolved issues with the deforestation regulation that will start regulating all biomass trade in the EU from January 2025.  

Anders Öberg from the region of Norrbotten says that the response from Commissioner Sinkevicius shows that there is a great value in the contacts made and adds that the problems with the deforestation regulation were recently raised at a meeting between northern Sweden and Helena Braun from the European Commission, who holds specific responsibility for the deforestation regulation.  

NSPAs letter, sent on January 18, 2024, to Commissioner Sinkevičius, requested that the northern forestry industry and one million forestry farmers in Sweden, Finland and Norway should be considered in the implementation of the regulation.   

More specifically, NSPA raised concerns about the geolocation requirement, which implies that all goods made from forest biomass, such as paper and pellets, must be accompanied by information on where and when trees used in the production of that product were harvested. The industry states this as very difficult given that it can involve thousands of different locations. The letter also highlighted the unclear definitions of forest degradation and primary forest. 

The letter was sent to Commissioner Sinkevičius shortly before the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen's, visit to Sweden where forestry issues were high on the agenda.  

The response from Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius to NSPA's letter 

Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

On February 20, 2024, Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius responded.  

The response indicates that the European Commission is ready to back down on the geolocation requirement. Furthermore, Commissioner Sinkevičius writes that the purpose of their definition of forest degradation is to prevent unsustainable forest management. However, he did not defend the definitions themselves in the regulation. 

Virginijus Sinkevičius also writes that the European Commission looks forward to a continued dialogue with all stakeholders and will work to find solutions that ensure both ambition for environmental protection and economic viability. The Commissioner stresses that all views are invaluable in refining the implementation of the deforestation regulation.

Anders Öberg (S), chairman of the regional board, region of Norrbotten

- The response from Commissioner Sinkevicius after our letter from NSPA and our meeting with Helena Braun shows that there is a great value of conversations and meetings to describe the conditions for the forest in northern Sweden. We know that modern forestry can be climate sustainable and contribute to climate positive effects also in the future, Anders Öberg, the region of Norrbotten, states. 

Jonny Lundin (C), chairman of regional development committee, region of Västernorrland

Jonny Lundin from the region of Västernorrland, who specifically highlighted the problems with geolocation at the meeting with the European Commission's Helena Braun, agrees.  

- The positive response from Commissioner Sinkevicius shows results for our joint advocacy work and is a step in the right direction for an increased understanding within the EU of the forest as well as the importance of the forest industry in northern Europe, Jonny Lundin states. 

Meeting with Helena Braun on the deforestation regulation  

On February 8th, a digital meeting was held between the northern regions of Sweden and Helena Braun at the European Commission, whose areas of responsibility include the circular economy, biodiversity and forestry. During the meeting, the regions had the chance to ask questions about the deforestation regulation and clearly address the importance of forests for the local economy in northern Sweden and their long history in the forest industry. Although no clear answers to the questions could be given by Braun, Sweden's northern regions still had the chance to present the regions and raise the NSPA letter.  

Focus on forest at the Västerbotten event at Grand Hôtel in Stockholm  

In addition to the letter from NSPA, forestry issues were given significant attention during the annual Västerbotten event held at Grand Hôtel in Stockholm where, among other things, the conference “Skogens Dag” was organized. In connection with the event, the Swedish government released the news of a major Swedish forestry investigation where the Minister for Rural Affairs spoke. North Sweden's Gölin Carina Christiansen also gave an outlook on EU forestry legislation.   

/Jenny Hammersland   

Read Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius' response to NSPA's letter here   

Read NSPA's letter here   

Read more about “Skogens dag” here (in swedish)  

Read more about the government investigation here (in swedish) 

Read more about the meeting with EU Commission Helena Braun here (in swedish)  

Read about the NSPA seminar on the deforestation regulation organised in Brussels here

08 Mar 2024 Climate policy

Sustainability policy

Read more