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Can Europe Really Preserve Global Forests?

European supermarket shelves may soon be stocked with deforestation-free products due to a “game-changing” EU law. The EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) requires traders to prove they don’t originate from land deforested after 2020 when placing certain products on the EU market or exporting them from it. The law targets commodities with the heaviest deforestation footprint, including cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber, soy, wood, as well as products such as chocolate, tires, furniture, and paper derived from them.

The EU has not yet publicly responded to the US calls for a delay to the law, which was adopted last summer and will apply from the end of 2024. Several other countries, including several member states within the EU itself, have raised concerns about the administrative burden it would place on farmers. While the EU has not yet publicly responded to the US calls for a delay, a European Commission spokesperson said it was “working very actively” to prepare the law’s entry into effect next year.

Forests are crucial for climate and biodiversity, supporting the existence of over 80% of all terrestrial animals, plants, and insects. They ensure air to breathe, filter our drinking water, and provide protection from landslides, floods, and storms. Deforestation is one of the most significant drivers of climate change, contributing up to an estimated 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Between 1990 and 2020, an aggregate area of forest larger than the size of the EU was converted to agricultural use.

The EU is the second largest market for deforestation-related products, with demand growing. The EU’s impact assessment of the law indicates that continued consumption and production of cattle, coffee, palm oil, soy, and wood would be linked to 250,000 hectares of forest per year by 2030. Palm oil and soy account for over 60% of EU-imported products linked to deforestation.

The EUDR regulation is significant in tackling deforestation because it covers the entire market for listed commodities. The Commission states that the regulation could reduce carbon emissions caused by EU consumption and production of the listed products by at least 32 million metric tons a year and save over 70,000 hectares of forest. With more efficient yet environmentally friendly agriculture on existing land, there shouldn’t be a need for new deforestation.

While other drivers of deforestation are not addressed by the regulation, the products it covers are extensive enough to minimize the chance of having something on your plate that “costs you a forest.” A 2022 study of the 350 most influential companies linked to deforestation found 72% of them did not have a deforestation commitment for all the forest-risk commodities in their supply chain.

Several countries have complained that the regulation burdens farmers, but Schneider emphasizes that while farmers may be asked to provide information, the legal obligation to collect and report this rests exclusively on the companies further down the supply chain placing products on the EU market. The European Commission is working hard to support smallholder farmers prepare for the law, including through two programs funded with a total of €110 million. Some smallholder associations have stressed that the EUDR could provide them with new opportunities, including a stronger position in the value chain through owning their geolocation data.

As supply chains are notoriously complex to trace, there are now an increasing number of technologies and platforms available to facilitate traceability and transparency. The EUDR has added huge momentum in the fight against deforestation, as it communicates to the rest of the world and actors within Europe that the EU is prioritizing taking responsibility for its consumption and the potential negative effects of that consumption.

Read More @ DW

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