Concerns on the EUDR implementation increases as the deadline inches closer

The new EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) has been pointed out as an important turning point in the global fight against deforestation. Set to take effect on December 30, 2024, this regulation holds significant implications for countries like Brazil, a major exporter of soybean and beef to EU. With the deadline approaching, producers are concerned about their ability to comply to the policy criteria in time. Yet, it is not just about wanting to or having the right technology; there are several uncertainties about which information will be necessary for operators to prove due diligence.

Brazilian stakeholders recently highlighted four major challenges to the effective implementation of the EUDR for soybean and beef supply chains in the country:

1. Legal complianceand documentation: Upstream business actors in producer countries are currently facing the challenge of furnishing the requisite information and documentation to access EU markets. For the actors involved, it is not clear what kind of documentation and proofs will be accepted by national authorities while verifying the links between products and their declared locations of origin. For instance, what level of risk in the supply chain will be considered acceptable for compliance, and what documents can be used as evidence of compliance with the legislation?

2. Data protection: The EUDR requires that traders and operators report the geographic coordinates of the plots of land where commodities were produced, ensuring they are deforestation-free and not associated with illegal practices. As this implies an increased use of monitoring and verification technologies, concerns exist about how to make information across the supply chain transparent while at the same time anonymising it to ensure data security.

3. Role of national platforms: In cases when national databases and platforms providing information relevant to the legislation already exist, would those be recognized as valid sources of evidence for legality? Example of platforms for the Brazilian case are the AgroBrasil+Sustentável and Selo Verde.

4. Potential rehabilitation: Traders and operators who fail to comply with the legislation – for instance, by selling products from non-compliant regions or producers – might be temporarily prohibited from commercialising their products in the EU. However, it is not clear if there are provisions for rehabilitating producers or regions initially excluded from compliance.

The identification of these four major challenges was the result of a collaborative gathering organized by CLEVER researchers from the University of Bonn, alongside the Agricultural Policy Dialogue Brazil-Germany (APD Brasil Alemanha) and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. Bringing together voices from Brazil’s government, private sector, NGOs, and academia, the discussions revolved around the upcoming EUDR implementation. Split into two teams (soybean and beef), participants discussed topics like traceability progress, ongoing hurdles, associated costs, mitigation plans, transition phases, and ensuring that smallholders aren’t left behind due to traceability requirements. Following this participatory approach to pinpoint challenges and solutions, the outcomes were shared at the ‘European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR): Challenges and Traceability Solutions’ Round Table with the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Brasília, Brazil, in February 2024.

Fernanda Martinelli (University of Bonn). Photo credit: Tim Bartram.
European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)
Challenges and Traceability Solutions. Photo credit: Carlos Alberto dos Santos
CLEVER Project Coordinator Jan Börner (University of Bonn). Photo credit: Carlos Alberto dos Santos
European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR)
Challenges and Traceability Solutions. Photo credit: Carlos Alberto dos Santos.
European Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) Challenges and Traceability Solutions. Photo credit: Carlos Alberto dos Santos.

Written by Fernanda Martinelli / University of Bonn.

Insights from the UNCTAD Conference on Trade and Biodiversity

How are biodiversity and the environment considered in global trade and commerce? One would think this question has been sufficiently answered, but the core of its debate has only started.

On March 25th and 26th, 2024, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) held a timely conference on the intersection between trade and biodiversity. The event brought together esteemed panellists and stakeholders from around the globe to deliberate on strategies to mainstream biodiversity into global trade processes and explore how nature-positive trade can support sustainable development and existing international agreements. As the triple planetary crisis (climate change, air pollution, and biodiversity loss) calls for urgent action and the search for solutions has revealed a need for change in our economy and development model, consumption and trade are naturally at the center of the discussions. Sustainable trade practices have been coined as a strategy to combat the economic drivers of biodiversity loss, and this topic has been raised by other international conventions, such as in COP28, where the “Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action” was signed.

I participated in two panels, “Mainstreaming Biodiversity into WTO Processes” and “Nature Positive Trade for Sustainable Development”, gathering insights that shed light on the importance of our work at CLEVER. Despite being set in a high-level discussion format, international organizations were willing to share how their work has tried to bring trade and biodiversity together, highlighting challenges and opportunities.  Organizations such as the WTO, UNCTAD, FAO, UNEP, international NGOs, and others shared initiatives and projects around the bioeconomy, biotrade, blue economy, payment for ecosystem services (PES), true cost accounting, ecotourism, and others. The Global Biodiversity Framework seems to be the foundation for aligning their own strategic plans, while the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are also in sight.

The WTO stressed that their Trade and Environmental Sustainability Structured Discussions (TESSD) are intended to complement the work of the Committee on Trade and Environment and other relevant WTO bodies, showing that this topic is becoming more relevant in the organization since their 2021 Ministerial Statement on Trade and Environmental Sustainability. UNEP, as part of their Economics and Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative, emphasized the importance of assessing the true cost of food in order to transform food systems, and that as nature’s value becomes visible, smallholder farmers should not carry the burden of the transition alone.

The general challenge also remains that including environmental aspects in trade is not ‘natural’, as it can create barriers beyond price, market, and national trade interest. Thus, to understand the best way to do so, a systematic approach and a larger change of economy per se are needed. For this, strong political will is required. Nonetheless, although all agree this is essential, there was a call to include certain concepts from prior agreed conventions (e.g., UNFCCC), such as the “common but differentiated responsibilities”, since working with trade systems also means dealing with global and historical modes of development. This point also incited discussions on the risk of misusing environmental aspects in trade for protectionism and, thus, distorting the market (giving the EUDR and CBAM as examples).

There was also a demand for more integration among international organizations, such as the WTO cooperating with environmental agreements (CITES and CBD). Certain topics were held as essential leverage points to focus on, such as addressing the misuse of hazardous pesticides, subsidies, and promoting sustainable agriculture. The significant role of regional trade agreements was also highlighted. Among the initiatives presented were the WWF’s “Codex Planetarius” to establish minimum standards for globally traded food, the WTO’s environmental database, the FAO’s biodiversity knowledge hub, and the G20’s Bioeconomy Initiative

In conclusion, the UNCTAD conference served as a critical platform for stakeholders to exchange ideas, share best practices, and chart a course towards a more sustainable and equitable future for trade, as biodiversity and environmental aspects are considered. These insights closely relate to our work in CLEVER, as it adds to our research and discussions on how international trade in agricultural and forest products affect biodiversity. Studying these links through qualitative (policy and governance aspects) and quantitative (biodiversity metrics) methods, the CLEVER team has been investigating and developing solutions for a more sustainable production and consumption. Through a science-policy interface strategy, CLEVER research intends to present knowledge and tools to influence decision-making, in collaboration with stakeholders from politics, the private sector and civil society. Informing ourselves and being part of current international discussions on the topic is a crucial part of our work.

Written by Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert from the University of Freiburg.

Feature image by Rosa Castañeda and tawatchai07 from Freepik.

CLEVER research represented in Kathmandu at the IPBES Nexus Assessment’s Third Author Meeting

Andrea Pacheco, CLEVER postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bonn, was recently in Kathmandu, Nepal participating as an author of the upcoming Nexus Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) that took place from February 5-11.

The assessment is synthesizing “the interlinkages among biodiversity, water, food, health, and climate”, and the complementarities and interdependencies that exist across these elements in the efforts to achieve globally agreed goals such as the Sustainable Development Goals or the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. The meeting was hosted by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), and authors had the opportunity to learn about their work across the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, as well as explore the culturally vibrant city of Kathmandu.

Andrea participates in the assessment as a part of IPBES’ fellowship programme, which “provides an opportunity for outstanding early-career individuals from all backgrounds and disciplines” as a part of IPBES’ broader capacity-building work. She works specifically on Chapter 6, “Options for delivering sustainable approaches to public and private finance for biodiversity-related elements of the nexus” and makes specific contributions in Chapter 5.3 “Options for delivering sustainable approaches to elements of the nexus (food systems)”. CLEVER researcher, David Leclére also participates as a lead author in the assessment in Chapter 3, “Future interactions across the nexus”.

Authors of the Nexus Assessment are now in the final stages of writing the assessment, which will be published at the end of 2024, pending approval of the Summary for Policymakers during the IPBES 11, taking place in Windhoek, Namibia December 10-16th.

Authors of the IPBES Nexus Assessment present at the Third Author Meeting (photo courtesy of Tiff van Huysen).

Reflections on International Day of Forests

On 21st of March we celebrate the International Day of Forests and the theme for this year is Forests and Innovation: New Solutions for a Better World. To acknowledge the importance of technological advancements in forest monitoring, the CLEVER team shared their reflections on how innovative technologies, such as remote sensing and satellite imagery, support scientific research and policy making.

Images by Adobe Stock.

Our decisions, as consumers, can generate impacts in very distant places – interview with Dr. Neus Escobar

CLEVER researcher Dr. Neus Escobar, from BC3, recently won the Audience Award at the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Conference, held in conjunction with the Spanish Presidency of the EU on 14-15 November 2023 in Toledo (Spain). She was among the 15 finalists selected from 170 MSCA projects to introduce her research and showcase the diversity of academic careers.

Neus presented her pitch ‘Tracking Chocolate to Fight Deforestation’ in the category ‘Exposure to Policy Making’. This topic summarized research insights from the MSCA-IF GIFTS (Global Interlinkages in Food Trade Systems) project. GIFTS is hosted by the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), which is also a partner in CLEVER, contributing to the development of indicators for biodiversity footprints and sustainability trade-off analysis.

What is the focus of your research in the GIFTS project? And what is the project about in general?

GIFTS is focused on the development of a global database that tracks supply chains of agri-food products across years, from the producing country to the country where consumption takes place, by distinguishing between food, feed, and non-food uses. The database is called Agro-SCAN and is entirely based on FAOSTAT data and includes 640 products, more than any similar database, and 181 countries. The objective of GIFTS is specifically to improve and expand Agro-SCAN in collaboration with FAO for estimating environmental footprints of food consumption. Ultimately, GIFTS aims to inform consumers’ decisions towards more resilient and sustainable agri-food systems in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What did you find so interesting about researching chocolate?

What makes chocolate an interesting case study is that many countries that are major chocolate producers do not produce cocoa beans. In fact, all cocoa bean production is concentrated in the tropics. This highlights the importance of international trade in securing global chocolate production, resulting in complex and interconnected supply chains. At the same time, this translates into large cocoa bean areas being virtually exported, for example, almost 90% of the total area harvested in 2020. The largest land footprints per capita are found in high-income countries such as Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom, or Canada.

Why is it important to be aware of the environmental impacts of the products we use?

Our results show that global agri-food markets are strongly interconnected and that our decisions, as consumers, can generate impacts in very distant places, such as deforestation, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, environmental pollution, or loss of rural livelihoods. The database at the core of GIFTS helps increase transparency in global supply chains, meaning food and feed consumers can know the origin of the raw materials used, the countries involved and the impacts generated. This information is valuable to understand the intensity of the impact of our consumption and the benefits of alternative options.

What is the relationship between GIFTS and CLEVER?

GIFTS and CLEVER are very related and in continuous exchange, as both share BC3 researchers, tackle similar topics (trade mediated-impacts and sustainability analysis), and even started in the same date. Both GIFTS and CLEVER aim to provide quantitative evidence for informing policymaking towards cleaner and transparent supply chains. After GIFTS, I will join CLEVER for the completion of the analyzes on the impacts and trade-offs from several policy strategies aimed at preventing biodiversity loss.

How can your research in GIFTS help the CLEVER project?

GIFTS can complement supply chain analyzes for CLEVER in WP6 (Representing ecological footprints and policy-trade-biodiversity linkages in global modelling), as the database being developed includes quantities of products and co-products traded across supply chains, from producing countries to final demand. This can provide a global picture about the origin of the raw materials used for the supply chains of interest in CLEVER. This is also helpful to identify the stakeholders involved in production and trade of CLEVER commodities, and the subsequent impacts of biodiversity loss. At the same time, the indicators generated by CLEVER can ultimately be implemented in the Agro-SCAN database to measure biodiversity loss footprints of food, feed and non-food consumption, which includes industrial uses of biomass.

Interview by Rosa Castañeda from EFI.

CLEVER Annual Meeting: In-person collaboration as the secret to catalyse innovation

In today’s tech-driven world, where Zoom calls and virtual meet-ups are the norm, there’s still something magical about good old face-to-face collaboration. It is true that digital tools have made it easier for researchers to team up from different corners of the globe, but we should not forget the unique benefits of in-person collaboration in fostering innovation and advancing the frontiers of knowledge. In-person collaboration provides an environment where minds can converge, ideas can be exchanged seamlessly, and the sparks of creativity can ignite.

The CLEVER group experienced these benefits while meeting in-person for the II CLEVER Annual Meeting, last November in Vienna, Austria, hosted by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). CLEVER is a global project, implemented by 12 participant organisations in 8 different countries, and this in-person meeting sought, in particular, to increase interaction among the Work Packages, and take quick decisive actions on future joint activities. Mission accomplished: now, scenario modellers want to consider stakeholders’ perspectives on governance, while biodiversity scientists work together with economists to combine their data; both with a plan of activities for next year.

Beyond all the scientific achievements of the meeting, the main lesson that remains for me is that while virtual collaboration has its merits, the importance of in-person collaboration in research cannot be overstated. The synergy that arises from shared physical spaces, the spontaneity of face-to-face discussions, and the depth of human connection contribute to a collaborative environment that propels research to new heights. In-person interactions allow researchers to build trust, understand each other’s working styles, and establish a rapport that goes beyond the professional realm. Cheers to the magic of in-person collaboration: the secret that will take CLEVER research to the next level.

Researchers at the II CLEVER Annual Meeting: Advances in measuring and governing impacts on biodiversity in global biomass value chains

(photos by Rosa Castañeda)

Written by Fernanda Martinelli / University of Bonn

Effective stakeholder engagement: Why we believe in the power of mapping value chain actors and co-design

Understanding who are involved in each stage of the global biomass value chain is not an easy task. For the success of stakeholder engagement, however, we believe that stakeholder mapping acts as the foundation to bring together a wide range of voices, both from exporting and importing countries.

This is why in February 2023, we kicked off the CLEVER stakeholder work with a vital step – a comprehensive mapping exercise. Our goal was to ensure diverse representation and engagement across the trade supply chains of timber and soy in Brazil, timber in Cameroon, and global fishmeal and fish oil flows heading to the EU. Our stakeholder maps (see the map for Brazil below) encompass various actors, from biomass producers and traders to policymakers and local communities. Now we are set to delve deeper into our value chain maps and engage with our extensive impact network, gathering vital insights for our empirical research.

The next step from mapping stakeholders is to get them involved in our project, to refine our research questions, facilitate knowledge sharing, and foster co-design that leads to innovative policy recommendations and governance instruments. This is where co-design comes into the picture. At the end of the first year of the project, in August 2023, we made significant strides in defining the essential role of stakeholder engagement and co-design for the project.

The CLEVER Stakeholder Reference Group takes center stage in this co-innovation landscape, steering us towards transformative change. Our researchers will also conduct content-related interviews with key stakeholders, contributing to our shared goals.

The project aims to provide a holistic view of the relationship between international trade and biodiversity. Our modelling simulations delve into the impact of trade-related interventions on biodiversity outcomes. This enables us to identify potential leverage points for positive change. We produced a user-friendly, transparent presentation of the Modeling Framework (see below) to invite stakeholders to join us in this essential research journey.

Stay tuned for more exciting updates as we continue to explore the complex web of global biomass trade and its impact on our environment!

Access all the resources here:

Written by Heli Sihvonen, UNEP-WCMC

Cover image by AdobeStock

New EU commodity trade rules and related challenges for the timber sector – Views from Cameroon 

Imagine you were a vendor selling products on the market. One day, some of your known, old buyers would start demanding assurances that your products fulfil certain requirements; or else, they can no longer buy from you. How would you react? Would you seek to fulfil the new, additional requirements or simply sell your products to other buyers, who demand less? Moreover, how might other concerned actors perceive this situation, such as the government, who regulates the marketplace? 

Together with Dr. Shidiki Abubakar Ali and Herman Zanguim from the University of Dschang, I was part of a research team set out to explore these and related questions in the context of the Cameroon-EU timber trade as part of the CLEVER project. In 2023, the EU adopted new market requirements in the Regulation on deforestation-free products (EUDR) for timber and some other commodities and derived products. For timber, the new requirements expand on rules that have been so far in place as part of the EU Timber Regulation. According to the new rules, timber products can be imported to (or exported from) the EU market only if they are legally produced and free of deforestation and forest degradation. With our team, we discussed emerging challenges and how to address them in Cameroon – a country producing and exporting tropical timber – with actors from State institutions, timber businesses, certification bodies, NGOs and the civil society, international organizations, and research and training institutions. 

A production forest in Cameroon. Photo by Herman Zanguim (UDS)

We found out that awareness of the EUDR is high but knowledge of its details on average is still low among the actors. The EUDR can be seen as complex as it contains a lot of details and technicalities, such as definitions of concepts like deforestation or forest degradation. An issue raised by many was that the EU has poorly communicated about the EUDR and what it might imply for a country like Cameroon. This may, in turn, have led to current lower levels of understanding of the EUDR and even misunderstandings of it, such as that the EU would be encroaching on other countries’ sovereignty with it. 

Different stakeholders in Cameroon also found that the EU had insufficiently involved actors in countries outside of the EU in the development of the EUDR, calling for a more participatory approach. Another point made by many was that the EUDR is perceived as overly restrictive and punitive for countries such as Cameroon that still have large areas of forests standing. Actors said that to achieve meaningful impacts, regulations like the EUDR should be more supportive and incentivizing for better governance in the countries where commodities are produced. According to them, a restrictive and punitive approach that they see with the EUDR is doomed to fail in its implementation due to lack of enabling conditions and support in countries of commodity production.

Logs stored at a sawmill in Cameroon. Photo by Mathias Cramm (EFI)

Timber businesses, on the other hand, did not appear too fussed about the EUDR. They believe themselves to be well prepared for its application, also because of existing EU regulations like the EU Timber Regulation. And what if their products were no longer accepted “as is” in the EU market? Their response was: Demand is high in Asian markets and buyers from African markets are also increasingly knocking on their door. Thus, there might be no shortage of alternative buyers for their timber products. 

It remains to be seen what the real impacts of the EUDR on countries like Cameroon, their timber industry, and their forests will be, after its application begins in 2024-2025. What will happen to the Cameroon-EU timber trade? How will Asian businesses, who import Cameroonian timber and re-export it to the EU, react? Will implementation and enforcement of the EUDR in the EU be possible and effective? Only time will tell, and we’ll hopefully follow the process from the researchers’ point of view. 

Written by Mathias Cramm from the European Forest Institute.

Toward compliance with the EU Deforestation Regulation: Criteria, Tools, and Open Questions

The past decades have seen a global increase in the production and trade in agricultural and forest-based commodities linked to deforestation and other socio-environmental risks. Different forms of governance have emerged to attempt regulation of these commodity supply chains to halt deforestation and ensure sustainable land-use change. In June 2023, the EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) was adopted, requiring EU companies to ensure that certain products imported to the EU are not associated with deforestation. The EUDR aims to minimize the EU’s contribution to deforestation and forest degradation worldwide. As such, it is intended to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss as stipulated in the European Green Deal. As the EUDR enters into force, many questions arise as to how the value chains of major globally traded commodities can become compliant.

With this in mind, the CLEVER and RAINFOREST partner Bonn.Realis organized a workshop called “Toward compliance with the EU Deforestation Regulation: Criteria, Tools, and Open Questions” on November 13, 2023, joining participants both online and in person, at the Center for Development Research, University of Bonn. More than 60 stakeholders joined, mainly from Germany, Brazil, but also other international actors, representing all sectors – public authorities, private companies, certifiers, NGOs, company associations, and research organizations. The workshop aimed at providing a space for discussion and exchange, identifying knowledge and capacity gaps to comply with the EUDR as well as opportunities for future collaboration toward improving supply chain sustainability. The workshop focused on Brazil as a key supplier to the EU and three specific commodities covered by the EUDR (i.e. beef, soy, and wood).

Under Chatham House Rules, participants discussed two fundamental questions:

  1. What challenges must be overcome in the three value chains in order to achieve compliance with the EUDR and related due diligence policies?
  2. Which tools and support mechanisms are in place or being developed to overcome these challenges, especially as regards IT solutions, certification schemes, and the mutual recognition of administrative and control systems?

The workshop provided a solid overview of what operators in both regions as well as competent enforcement authorities in the EU can build on in terms of traceability systems and tools for compliance. We also gathered valuable information on areas where stakeholders require further clarification and guidance to align effectively with the new regulatory conditions. Questions around traceability, risk assessment and mitigating measures, supply chain segregation, and transaction costs dominated the debates in separate breakout groups for the three commodities. Considerable uncertainty exists as to the quality standards that competent national authorities and third parties may apply to evaluate future due diligence efforts of operators. There was also an emphasis on a pre-competitive collaboration among operators and service providers in order to generate accessible traceability solutions for all actors of the supply chain.

In sum, we have learned a lot about the challenges that key stakeholders involved in the implementation of the EUDR still need to overcome until its rules will apply from 30th of December 2024. A summary paper synthesizing the workshop’s main results will be prepared and some authorities have already signaled interest in feeding these results into ongoing consultations. Beyond contributing to the implementation process, these results will also feed into CLEVER’s research on policy analysis (WP4, 5) and stakeholder engagement (WP8).  

Written by Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert (UFR) and Jan Börner (UBO).

Photo by Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert (UFR).

Promoting biodiversity conservation and sustainable policies

A recent study published in Nature has analyzed the environmental crisis resulting from the undervaluation of nature. This publication emphasizes the pivotal role of understanding diverse values associated with nature when designing policies that promote biodiversity conservation while minimizing economic and social trade-offs.

The study highlights the “values crisis”, a phenomenon rooted in the undue emphasis on economic values in decision-making, neglecting the profound and multifaceted ways in which people treasure the natural world. To tackle this crisis, it advocates for four essential “values-centered approaches”: recognizing the multitude of values, integrating them into policy decisions, reforming existing policies, and reshaping societal norms.

The  special issue entitled “Leveraging Nature’s Values for Transformative Change: Insights from the IPBES Values Assessment”, published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, follows the Nature publication mentioned above, bringing together 14 articles based on in-depth reviews of different strands of the literature on nature’s values. This review delves into the fundamental role of nature in shaping policy decisions, drawing insights from the  IPBES Values Assessment.

In the face of the ongoing nature crisis, this special issue is a powerful reminder of the need to reimagine how our value-based decisions influence our relationship with the environment.

This work serves as an invaluable guide for the CLEVER project in designing policies that not only preserve biodiversity but also harmonize with diverse societal values.

Written by BC3

Source of cover image: “Leveraging Nature’s Values for Transformative Change: Insights from the IPBES Values Assessment” – BC3 Basque Centre for Climate Change – Klima Aldaketa Ikergai (bc3research.org)