The European Parliament has just passed new legislation that will ban the sale of deforestation-related goods in member states. However, African researchers and specialists doubt the effectiveness of such a European measure.
After several years of lobbying, the European Parliament finally passed a law on Wednesday 19 April 2023 that bans the import of deforestation products into the European Union (EU). Voted by a very large majority, the text aims to fight against climate change and preserve biodiversity. The import into the EU of products from cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, wood, rubber, charcoal and printed paper will be banned if these products come from land where deforestation has taken place after December 2020.
« We are losing about 10 million hectares of forest worldwide every year and this instrument will put an end to that, or at least to our complicity in that deforestation, because our shelves are currently filled with chocolate, coffee, etc., soya-based products that contribute massively to the destruction of forests », explains MEP Christophe Hansen, who is also the rapporteur for the new legislation. The EU is responsible for 16% of global deforestation through its imports (mostly soy and palm oil, 2017 figures) and is the second largest destroyer of tropical forests behind China, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Ivory Coast has already committed to it
Once the text is in force, companies will have 18 months to implement the measure. Smaller companies will have a longer period. This will include providing the relevant authorities with relevant information such as geolocation details. These checks will be carried out using satellite monitoring tools. If companies fail to comply with the rules, they could be fined up to 4% of their suppliers’ annual turnover on the EU market.
Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, believes that it is ahead of the law in setting up a system for geolocating production. In the West African country, more than one million cocoa producers have been registered. They have been issued with name cards and the geolocation coordinates of their plots. « If you are not registered, your products cannot be marketed. If you usually produce five tonnes of cocoa, but we see that for this season you have gone beyond that, it means that you are at fault and you will be prosecuted, » explains Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, the Ivorian Minister of Agriculture.
The text is still criticised
For many observers, the EU law on imported deforestation is only a first step towards the desired objectives. « The European approach is good, but how can it be applied? » asks Bakary Traoré of the association Initiatives pour le Développement communautaire et la conservation de la Forêt (IDEF). « How can we check? With what means can we check the beans on site and justify their origin?
For the nature conservation organisation Greenpeace, this regulation has « loopholes », for example by excluding ecosystems such as the savannah and by failing to target European banks that finance projects that destroy forests.
During the debate, rapporteur Christophe Hansen acknowledged that the text was « not perfect », explaining that this was why three reviews were planned: after 1, 2 and 5 years. « The perfection will be for tomorrow », he announced.