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EU Deforestation Regulation Seeks Stronger Measures In Checking Global Deforestation

Illegal logging for paper industry and forest clearing for Palm oil plantation. TESSO NILO Plantation Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia

Massive depletion of forests, in particular sub-tropical and tropical rainforests, for large-scale commercial ventures has been in the spotlight of serious deliberations on the three climatic processes – for all the wrong reasons.

By Salam Rajesh

The increased frequency of the occurrence of extreme weather events in several parts of the globe has given rise to concerns about how far anthropogenic influences in the negative sense contribute to the three climatic processes: global warming, climate change and extreme weather events.

On this very critical issue, the European Union (EU) is taking the first steps to draw up binding regulations seeking means of minimizing the negative anthropogenic influences leading to uncontrolled and unregulated depletion of important forest covers.

Massive depletion of forests, in particular sub-tropical and tropical rainforests, for large-scale commercial ventures has been in the spotlight of serious deliberations on the three climatic processes – for all the wrong reasons.

A White Paper (2024) brought out by the New Zealand-originated watch-group Oritain, captioned as “EU Deforestation Regulation Implications & How to Comply” dwells on the objectives and processes of implementing regulations across Europe to monitor and control the trade-offs connected to mass depletion of forest cover by commercial entities.

The EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) prohibits products that are not deforestation-free from being imported into or exported out of the EU. Under the EUDR, only products from non-degraded or deforested land after 31st December, 2020, will be allowed on the EU market or for export from the EU. The regulation, however, does not apply to areas deforested before this deadline and those forested areas converted into plantation forests.

Commodities covered under the new legislation include cattle, soya, palm oil, rubber, wood, coffee and cocoa. The EUDR applies to companies in the industries of palm oil, cattle ranching, wood, coffee, cocoa, rubber, and soy, as well as derivative products including chocolate, furniture, and printed paper. These industries are significant contributors to trade, with beef/cattle, coffee, cocoa, palm oil, and soy imports into the EU worth 85 billion Euros annually, the report stated.

Palm oil has been a significant driver of tropical deforestation, especially in Southeast Asia. In 2021 alone, the EU imported 8 million metric tons, worth 6.3 billion Euros, of palm oil and palm oil products. Seventy percent of the EU’s palm oil imports originate from Indonesia and Malaysia, each of which are likely to be classified as high-risk. Palm oil plantations were the largest driver of deforestation in these countries between 2001 and 2016, accounting for 23 percent, the report noted.

India, too, is a major importer of palm oil which is used in multiple of industries manufacturing biscuits, chocolates, edible oils, and a host of other domestic products. A global ban on the import of palm oil has driven India to invest in the production of palm oil within the country, triggering widespread debates on the action which many say could lead to ecological disaster, human rights violations, and loss of biodiversity.

Kicking off the report with a pessimistic note, the White Paper noted that ‘in just over 100 years the world lost as much forest as it had in the previous 9000 years, corresponding to an area the size of the United States’. At a rough estimate, 2400 trees are cut down every minute across the globe where commercial entities on beef, soy and palm oil ventures are responsible for up to 60% of tropical deforestation globally, says Oritain.

Countries across Europe are second only to China in terms of contributing to around 16 percent of tropical deforestation linked to international trade on beef, soy and palm oil. While it is estimated that around 4.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere annually from deforestation, significantly contributing to global warming, about 100 million hectares of forest was lost during the past two decades, the report stated. 137 species of plants, animals and insects are lost every day due to deforestation, it noted.

Article 6 of the EUDR requires Member States to ensure that companies take appropriate measures to identify actual and potential adverse human rights impacts and adverse environmental impacts arising from their own operations or those of their subsidiaries and, where related to their value chains, from their established business relationships.

While the EUDR places penalties and fines at member states’ discretion, it recommends fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s EU turnover proportionate to the environmental damage and value of commodities, plus loss of access to public funding and public procurement for a period of time.

The EUDR has given time to large companies until the end of December later this year, while small companies (with fewer than 50 employees and below 10 million Euro annual turnover) until the end of June next year, to comply to its regulations.

The EU initiative to deter deforestation of significant forests in the several parts of the globe connected to commercial ventures promoting cattle ranching and oil palm plantation particularly, certainly negates the Government of India’s push for increased domestic production of edible oils, in particular palm oil. The sub-tropical and tropical rainforest pockets in the North East and Andaman & Nicobar are in the Government’s radar for the oil palm plantations.

The Manipur Government in line with the National Mission on Edible Oils, too, is contemplating promotion of oil palm plantations in the State, brushing aside objections from several quarters on the concerns of possible long-term impacts on the environment and local communities due to the commercial plantation of oil palms.

Up to 1.25 billion people around the world rely on forests for shelter, livelihoods, fuel, water and food security. Around a hundred countries, making up 85% of the world’s forests, has since pledged to stop and reverse deforestation by the end of the decade, which runs concurrently with the UN’s year 2030 agenda to limit global temperature rise. 40 percent of ‘Fortune Global 500’ companies had also acknowledged actions to decrease forest and seabed loss.

The Oritain is a New Zealand-based global organization applying forensic and data science to verify the origin of products and raw materials in evaluating product origin to determine whether the products are attributed to deforestation of vital forest cover such as the mass depletion of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia for oil palm plantations (and the possible depletion of critical rainforests in the North East and the Andaman & Nicobar islands in a future time).

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