European Union environment ministers reached an agreement on a general approach to new rules addressing global deforestation during a meeting of the Environment Council in Luxembourg on June 28.
The proposal, which was initially presented by the European Commission in November 2021, aims to ensure that products and commodities imported into the EU are ‘deforestation-free’ which is termed as ‘not having caused deforestation or forest degradation during their production’.
The Council agreed to set mandatory due diligence rules for all operators and traders who place, make available or export products of six commodities such as coffee, cocoa, palm oil, soya, beef and wood, as well as a number of their derivative products.The regulation no no longer singles out palm oil as the main villain in deforestation.
The Council defined ‘deforestation’ as the conversion of forest to agricultural use, whether human-induced or not. While ‘forest degradation’ means as “structural changes to forest cover, that translate into the conversion of primary forests into plantation forests or into other wooded land.” In the document, ‘forest’ means land spanning more than 0,5 hectares with trees higher than five meters and a canopy cover of more than 10 percent.
This commitment imposes a double-edged sword impact on developing countries with highly forested landscape such as Indonesia.
It is a general, more pragmatic approach in addressing deforestation in the supply chain of any commodities, including cocoa, soy, beef, palm oil, coffee that are allegedly contributed to or linked with forest degradation.
It should be noted, however, that the document is missing the reality when we realize that deforestation can be labelled to any product that allegedly converts the 0.5 ha of land. Such terms are too simplistic and only applicable in certain regions, such as temperate Europe. While, in tropical countries like Indonesia, the area can be considered forest if it is larger and more complex ecologically.
Therefore, there are critical gaps on the definition of forest and deforestation between EU and Indonesia which need to be reconciled.
Despite its noble purpose and goals, the commitment fails to recognize the highly forested landscape, like Papua and the opportunity for indigenous Papuans to economically develop and thrive. Further, the EU commitment also disregards in its forest definition and governance the nature of biophysical forests in other regions, such as tropical forests, and the producing country’s sovereignty.
It is unfortunate that suchan important document was not supported with a more comprehensive scientific basis as shown in its failure to clarify the terms of forest and deforestation which needs to take the local context of the producing countries.
(Selengkapnya dapat dibaca di Majalah Sawit Indonesia, Edisi 129)