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 featured at the University of Bonn’s International Days 2023

Every year, the University of Bonn in Germany celebrates its international projects and partnerships with renowned universities around the world at the event called “International Days”. The University is closely linked to over 70 universities on all continents within the framework of cross-faculty cooperation agreements. Partnerships with Ghana and Brazil were particularly highlighted in the International Days 2023, which took place at the University on October 20th. The Vice-Rectorate for International Affairs invited the PhD candidate Fernanda Martinelli, to represent the EU-funded project CLEVER: Creating leverage to enhance biodiversity outcomes of global biomass trade, as one of the partner projects with a Brazilian university. At the occasion, she discussed with other students and researchers the current challenges and future opportunities in international cooperation – especially with partners from the so-called “Global South”, and offered a comprehensive information about perspectives from both sides. Find more about the International Days from University of Bonn here.

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).

Towards multidimensional CLEVER biodiversity indicators

Measuring the extent of human-driven impacts on biodiversity is methodologically and practically complex – often, due to the inherent limitations in currently available biodiversity data. CLEVER researchers at the Centre for Remote Sensing (CSR) at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) take on the challenge of using advanced modeling techniques to develop  innovative models that estimate current and baseline patterns of biodiversity in CLEVER’s focus regions – South America and Africa. University of Bonn researchers recently visited the CSR in Belo Horizonte to discuss results from these models – as well as potential future uses and applications.

Results thus far suggest that, when comparing differences between baseline models and current biodiversity, there have been major human-driven decreases in both species richness and endemism in southern Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. Other major decreases in endemism were found particularly along the Patagonia, Africa’s northeastern coast, and the Horn of Africa. Next steps will include technical improvements in the models to improve their predictive capacity and include other dimensions of biodiversity.

We also exchanged ideas and discussed future research questions and applications of the modelled data, including: the analysis of agricultural supply-chains and agri-environmental policies, the pairing of these models with data on land tenure in Brazil, as well as future CLEVER work involving life-cycle analyses and integrated assessment models aiming to estimate biodiversity impacts of different trade-flows.

Written by Andrea Pacheco.

Picture credits: Andrea Pacheco and Britaldo Soares Fliho

Cover photo by josefurlan_pissol/Adobe Stock

Sustainable agriculture and livestock in Brazil: What it takes to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Agriculture in Brazil highlighted an impressive 400% increase in productivity while simultaneously reducing land use in the last decades. However, some rotten apples continue causing environmental damages in the Brazilian agribusiness.

Brazilian policy representatives, civil society and other stakeholders met on 15th of June in Berlin to discuss current challenges of the sustainability goals of agriculture and livestock in Brazil. The event “Agriculture and Livestock in Brazil – New Challenges for Sustainability” focused on successful supply chain governance initiatives in the soy and cattle sectors. Examples included Brazil’s Soy Moratorium and zero deforestation cattle agreements. Traceability systems and the environmentally-oriented political will of the new federal administration also underpinned the dialogue.

Among the challenges, the speakers highlighted the historical problem of land grabbing, the implementation gaps of the rural environmental registry (CAR), and the divergent trade standards in international markets. One thing was clear though: the role of international trade rules is a crucial, potentially effective solution for sustainable agriculture and livestock in Brazil.

On one hand, the debate highlighted how the new European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) is shaking things up for both Brazilian exporters and European importers. On the other hand, potential trade diversion and uncertainty around EUDR implementation instruments remain significant obstacles that may limit the full potential of the new regulation. In this latter point, CLEVER project results will be instrumental in clarifying how and under which conditions trade-related instruments can increase the efficiency of commodity supply chains and protect the environment.

The event was hosted by the Brazilian Embassy in Berlin and jointly organized by the Embassy, APD Brasil, and the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA). Carolle Alarcon (Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture), Luiza Bruscato (Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock – GTPS), and Mauro Armelim (Amigos da Terra – Amazônia Brasileira) were among the speakers.

Find out more: https://youtu.be/pB8RZnrKjXQ

Written by Dr. Gustavo Magalhaes de Oliveira – University of Bonn

Photo by Lourenço Furtado/AdobeStock

Efforts to fight global deforestation need trust-building dialogue

CLEVER representatives met with policy makers, civil society and other academia stakeholders on 13th of June in Berlin to discuss the new rules on sustainability of international agricultural value chains. The focus was at the EU’s landmark decision on its deforestation regulation in December 2022, and the impacts in Brazil. This regulation intends to increase the consumption of ‘deforestation-free’ products, by prohibiting specified commodities and products from being imported into the EU. If in one hand, the regulation comes with a good intention and in a proper political momentum for Brazil, on the other hand, such a unilateral measure can promote a “diversion trade”, which means, Brazil can shift their exports to a less demanding trading partner with lower incurred costs. Other points raised at the meeting were the lack of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of this type of policy, and the challenge of tracing the product from the plot of land to the EU.

Among the solutions, one word was often repeated and took centre stage: “partnerships”. Partnerships to develop traceability tools, platforms, and to increase the interoperability between traders. Overall, partnerships to support exporter governments to improve their own efforts to conserve the forest. One thing is clear: without this joint effort, the final goal of decreasing deforestation cannot be achieved. That is why, while the new EU regulation is not into force, all relevant stakeholders are increasing the dialogue to prepare the ground to conduct strict due diligence. In this setting, CLEVER project results will be key to provide to those stakeholders evidence-based information on potential impacts of this new regulation in both sides of this trade coalition.

The event was hosted by SWP, organized by APD Brasil, and supported by the GFA Consulting Group, IAK Agrar Consulting, GIZ, and BMEL.

Photo by Fernanda Martinelli

Written by Fernanda Martinelli – University of Bonn

Featured image by Adobe Stock/FootageLab

Evaluating trade regulations in Forest-risk Commodities to protect biodiversity

The world’s forests and the biodiversity they harbour are significantly impacted by the global trade in forest and agricultural Forest-risk Commodities (FRCs), commodities whose production or extraction might contribute to deforestation or forest degradation, such as timber and soy. In the context of increasing international and domestic demand for these products, it is essential to understand how trade-offs and synergies of public policy and governance initiatives (e.g. conflicting social, economic and environmental goals) regulating global FRC value chains affect forest biodiversity. The CLEVER work packages 4 and 5, presented by Laila Berning and Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert at the forest policy science conference in Freiburg (Forstpolitikwissenschaftstreffen Freiburg), investigate this research question.

The three-day conference brought together international scientific researchers who study the interrelations of governance and politics in the realm of forest and environmental conservation through different angles of discourse, legitimacy, power, communication, management and more. The CLEVER project featured in a poster exhibition, sparking interesting discussions around the topics of commodity value chains, mixed policy regulations, and biodiversity conservation.

The CLEVER research teams from the University of Freiburg, the European Forest Institute, and TU Dresden, together with their research partners from Brazil (Center for Advanced Amazonian Studies, University Federal do Pará), Cameroon and Gabon (University of Dschang) are investigating the trade-offs and synergies between the European Union (EU) and tropical producer countries. By conducting a mapping of key policy and governance initiatives and value chains (Brazil-EU soy, wood pulp, and timber value chains, Cameroon-EU and Gabon-EU timber value chain, and India-EU key forest-risk commodities), the researchers will identify key leverage points for enhancing biodiversity conservation.

To identify the right mix of policy and governance initiatives, the CLEVER team is also interviewing a range of demand and supply-side stakeholders from governmental authorities, non-governmental organizations, certification bodies, research organizations, and the private sector. The project’s findings will help policymakers and stakeholders make informed decisions about sustainable biomass production and trade.

If you have any inquiries about the work packages, you can contact CLEVER project team leader at Freiburg Metodi Sotirov (metodi.sotirov (at) ifp.uni-freiburg.de), Laila Berning (laila.berning (at) ifp.uni-freiburg.de) or Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert (rafaella.ziegert (at) ifp.uni-freiburg.de).

Dr. Metodi Sotirov, Laila Berning and Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert – University of Freiburg

Written by Laila Berning and Rafaella Ferraz Ziegert – University of Freiburg