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Acting against tropical deforestation imported into the European Union: Walking a fine line

Issue Briefs N°08/2017. Iddri, 2017. 4 p.

PRESENTATION

Quantitatively, Europe’s responsibility for global deforestation relates primarily to the dominance of a highly industrialized type of livestock farming for meat and milk. In order to address this issue, moving beyond the legal, no-constraint, or regulatory approaches, the two options that are immediately feasible and useful for the future are those—however necessary but not adequate—that aim to provide a basis for (re)establishing constructive dialogue between the authorities in producer countries, the EU, companies, development aid donors, NGOs, and researchers.

KEY MESSAGES

  • Today, in Europe as in France, there is a noticeably and increasingly intense debate over the deforestation caused by imports of food commodities, with particular focus on palm oil.
     
  • However, Europeans are causing tropical deforestation mainly because of their imports of soya for animal feed, which therefore points to their choices of livestock farming models.
     
  • There are three possible sets of options aimed at limiting the impact of such imported deforestation: concentrating on the legality of production by applying to agricultural commodities what was done for timber; relying on a wide application of environmental certification; and regulating imports and European production by directive.
     
  • Taken individually, none of these options seems capable of responding to the problem. They are all either too limited or trigger too much opposition. The “fine line” European actors can walk when these various difficulties intersect is therefore to develop cooperation between the actors in consumer and producer countries, strengthen information systems aimed at dispelling misunderstandings, and reinforce existing initiatives.