Raw deal? EU’s Green Deal might simply be offshoring environmental harm, researchers from Germany contend

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October 27, 2020 1:30 AM

The European Green Deal (EGD) that has been the buzz in green activism circles both in the EU and elsewhere with the talk of its ambitious climate target, would have less than desired impact, thanks to it causing grave environmental damage by proxy.

European forest cover rose by 9% between 1990 and 2014, or nearly by 13 million hectares, while, globally, 11 million hectares, Fuchs et al point out in the Nature article, was lost to agriculture that served the EU’s consumption needs.

The European Green Deal (EGD) that has been the buzz in green activism circles both in the EU and elsewhere with the talk of its ambitious climate target, would have less than desired impact, thanks to it causing grave environmental damage by proxy. Writing in Nature, Richard Fuchs, Calum Brown & Mark Rounsevell of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany, point out how the Green Deal simply ‘offshores’ environmental degradation. The EU happens to be the largest importer of agri-goods, second only to China. The EGD envisions, among other things, enhancing forests and use of renewable energy, including bioenergy.

However, one of the ways to preserve existing and create new forest cover is to keep agriculture that requires massive land-use change—read deforestation—limited. It is here that the EGD, in its present form, falls quite short. Fuchs et al point out how Europe’s agri-trade with several countries and trading blocs will involve deforestation/use of recently deforested land and use of certain pesticides, herbicides, etc, that are restricted/prohibited in the EU.
European forest cover rose by 9% between 1990 and 2014, or nearly by 13 million hectares, while, globally, 11 million hectares, Fuchs et al point out in the Nature article, was lost to agriculture that served the EU’s consumption needs.

Also, the continent’s bio-energy push places reliance on import of feedstock biomass from other nations—this, in turn, has driven up agricultural investment and diversion of forests in the exporting nations, chiefly Brazil. The authors suggest that the EGD focus on responsible sourcing—this will mean that trading agreements have to place greater weight on sustainable production in countries exporting to the EU and the continent strengthen the monitoring this will require—apart from harmonising the standards that exporting nations must meet. The continent also must focus on domestic production, preferably through ‘sustainable intensification’ (viz. gene editing, indoor farming, etc), and even on perhaps reducing environmentally damaging consumption. Countries planning their carbon announcements should take note.

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