EU agrees law to fight global deforestation – does it reduce deforestation?

Yesterday, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on a law to fight global deforestation caused by EU production and consumption[1]. The initiative to reduce deforestation is the most welcome! But is the EU actually reducing deforestation with the new regulation? In short, the EU wants to fine companies who imports or produce products from crops grown on land that was subject to deforestation after 31st December 2020. This means that products exported to the EU will have to be sourced from land that has not recently been subject to deforestation. This would imply that countries such as Brazil and Indonesia would have to make sure that their export to the EU comes from land deforested longer ago than 31 December 2020 – which is easy because more than 85% Brazil’s and 70% of Indonesia’s agricultural land would comply with this. Deforestation frontier countries such as Brazil and Indonesia just need to make sure to export from the recent deforested land to countries outside the EU, that’s the only thing needed – no need to halt deforestation. The EU basically just makes sure that deforestation can be blamed to countries outside the EU, while making no difference for the forests we want to protect.

If the EU wants to reduce deforestation, the most effective means are:
– Spend money on nature conservation.
– Impose import toll on all products from countries with high deforestation rates.
– Compensate countries for their protection of nature. Protection of nature poses an opportunity cost compared to cultivating the land. The EU cannot just ask the countries with high forest cover to bear the costs of deforestation.
– Support initiatives to increase yields – especially in countries with low yields and areas very prune to deforestation.

The current proposed regulation:
– Impose a ban on products from producers and countries, who have the option to make a big difference. A ban means that the EU is looking the other way and loses the opportunity for contributing to a green transition.
– This loss of opportunities actually means that the new regulation potentially has a higher environmental impact than business as usual.

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