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New Focali policy brief: Flawed numbers underpin recommendations to exclude commodities from EU deforestation legislation

Rubber tree plantation. Photo by Ryan Woo/CIFOR

New Focali policy brief: Flawed numbers underpin recommendations to exclude commodities from EU deforestation legislation

A leaked draft impact assessment, informing the EU Commission’s coming legislative proposal for minimizing the risk of deforestation and forest degradation associated with products placed on the EU market, has led to recent debate. A key point of contention is the scope of the proposed regulation: the impact assessment recommends that some key forest-risk commodities – maize and rubber – be left out of the regulation. The authors of this new Focali brief show that the analysis that underpins this conclusion has severe flaws and that current evidence does not support such a recommendation.

They base this recommendation on their own research (presented in Pendrill et al., 2020,), which the impact assessment uses to motivate which commodities to include or exclude from the coming regulation. They problem they point to is that the impact assessment does not compare the amount of deforestation embodied in EU imports and the values of these imports in a consistent way, but include additional flows for some commodities, while excluding important flows for others. This leads to a misguided recommendation to exempt maize and rubber from the coming EU legislation, which – if adopted – could undermine its effort to curb deforestation caused by EU imports.

The brief authors conclude: “We welcome that the draft impact assessment recognizes the need to regularly review and amend the product scope, in order to reflect changes in deforestation drivers. However, based on the available evidence – and knowing its limitations and caveats – we do not think that there are strong reasons at present for a recommendation to exempt any of the assessed commodities from the initial scope of the forthcoming EU legislative proposal.”

Download the Focali brief here


Key message for policy makers:

Current evidence does not support recommendations to exempt key forest risk-commodities, such as maize or natural rubber, from EU legislation on imported deforestation.

Reference:  

Pendrill, F., Persson, U.M. & Kastner, T. (2020). ‘Deforestation risk embodied in production and consumption of agricultural and forestry commodities 2005-2017’. Chalmers University of Technology, Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, SEI, and Ceres Inc. DOI: 10.5281/ zenodo.4250532

Further reading – preceding briefs:  

Read about additional recommendations for the new EU-legislation, in these preceding briefs: Three principles for the EU to reduce imported deforestation, written by Simon Bager and Focali member U. Martin Persson, and A broad EU deforestation approach can help protect climate and biodiversity, written by U. Martin Persson and colleagues.

Disclaimer and copyright: 

The recommendations presented in this Focali brief are solely the co-authors’ and do not necessarily represent the views of other members within the Focali research network. You are free to circulate this brief as a pdf as upload it to other webpages. The brief can be quoted as:    Pendrill, F., Persson, U.M. & Kastner, T., 2021. Flawed numbers underpin recommendations to exclude commodities from EU deforestation legislation, Focali Brief No 2021:02, Gothenburg

Contact the authors:

Martin Persson, Professor, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology and Focali member. martin.persson@chalmers.se  +46 31 772 2148

Thomas Kastner, PhD, Senior Researcher, Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, thomas.kastner@senckenberg.de

Florence Pendrill, PhD candidate, Physical Resource Theory, Chalmers University of Technology and Focali member. florence.pendrill@chalmers.se

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