The ambitious proposal of the European Parliament against deforestation

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The European Parliament on Tuesday he voted in favor of an ambitious proposal to prevent products obtained through deforestation from being marketed in the countries of the European Union. If definitively approved by the European institutions, the ban would affect all imports of cocoa, coffee, rubber, wood, corn, palm oil, soybeans and animal breeding products: those who sell these goods in Europe would be obliged to verify that they have not been produced by exploiting deforested land or by unsustainably modifying a forest, anywhere in the world.

Deforestation is practiced a lot in South America, Central Africa and Southeast Asia to obtain agricultural land, and in particular to grow soybeans (widely used for feed) and palms (for palm oil), and to breed cattle. It is a serious problem because the reduction of tropical forests limits the absorption of greenhouse gases produced by human activities and responsible for the climate change. It also endangers the survival of many animal and plant species and with it the balance of tropical ecosystems.

In the countries of the European Union a considerable part of the products for which deforestation is practiced is marketed and consumed and for this reason banning their import could contribute to the conservation of the planet’s forests. According to a recent study, between 2008 and 2017, European countries were responsible for 19 per cent of tropical deforestation linked to international trade in the six most deforested commodities. Currently, the only products for which European rules against deforestation exist are wood and biofuels, those obtained from cultivated vegetables.

The proposal on which the European Parliament has expressed itself is a draft regulation written by the Commission. Already ambitious in itself, it would be made even more radical with the changes suggested by Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI). In fact, the products considered by the Commission did not include pork, sheep, goat and chicken, nor corn and rubber, and some wood products. Furthermore, the Commission had proposed that the ban would concern products obtained thanks to deforestation that took place after 31 December 2020: ENVI counter-proposed to consider those after 31 December 2019, thus expanding the number of imports prohibited by the regulation.

Among the additions of the ENVI there is also a form of control on the respect of human rights and indigenous peoples in the production of the products affected by the regulation. Finally, banks and financial companies will be required to verify that they do not invest in productive activities related to deforestation.

Parliament adopted the ENVI position – this is the technical term of the formal act – as its own with 453 votes in favor, 57 against and 123 abstentions. In recent months, the Council of the European Union, that is the body in which the representatives of the governments of the 27 member countries sit, had also expressed its own position, and soon the two bodies will have to negotiate a compromise together with the European Commission in the so-called “trilogue ”, That is the closed-door negotiation between the three institutions. The final version of the regulation is likely to be less radical than Parliament’s proposal.

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