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Imported deforestation: a historic text whose real impact remains to be tested

Mathilde Dupré & Stéphanie Kpenou, 6 December 2022

[English] [français]

The adoption of an EU regulation on imported deforestation on 6 December 2022 is a historic step but still has shortcomings that could undermine its effectiveness in countering deforestation and its impacts on climate and biodiversity.

France encouraged the adoption of a European regulation on imported deforestation to avoid European consumption fuelling deforestation in third countries. It was indeed urgent for the EU to adopt such an instrument: between 1990 and 2008, the EU imported and consumed 36% of the crops and livestock products associated with deforestation traded internationally. At the heart of the problem is the consumption of crops such as soy and palm oil and their processed products, as well as the consumption of meat

This regulation for deforestation-free products and supply chains is based on due diligence obligations imposed on economic actors. However, the robustness of the instrument remains to be tested. Especially since the Council’s negotiators have significantly reduced the scope of the text that came out of the European Parliament, particularly with regard to the list of regulated products and the list of protected ecosystems.

Only rubber, printed paper, charcoal and products derived from palm oil were added to the initial list (composed of palm oil, soya, cocoa, coffee, beef and wood). And the regulation finally covers only forests.

Thus, several provisions fundamental to the effective scope of the instrument are postponed to later discussions under review clauses:

  • Maize or biodiesel are not included. These two products are subject to a review clause in two years.
  • The addition of other woodlands is also subject to a review clause (in one year). Almost 60% of European imports at risk of deforestation are soybeans, mainly grown in savannahs such as Cerrado, not covered by the text.
  • The inclusion of the financial sector will also only be considered in two years time.

This is why the implementation of this text is not yet an effective shield against all forms of imported deforestation. In the negotiations with the Mercosur countries, for example, additional provisions should be added in the form of mirror clauses as part of the tariff conditionality of the draft trade agreement. Negotiations prior to the ratification of the agreement should also include a commitment from Mercosur countries not initiate proceedings before the WTO against this European regulation.

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