New study on the unintended effects of the EU’s Regulation on Deforestation-free products

In the scientific publication Blind spots in the EU’s Regulation on Deforestation-free products, CLEVER researchers express concern that the European Union’s Regulation on Deforestation-free Products (EUDR) may have unintended consequences when it clashes with existing national policies and value-chain governance mechanisms in trading partners. Using the example of Brazil, they illustrate and discuss the potential consequences of the considerable gap between the formal cut-off dates of the EUDR and the Amazon Soy Moratorium (ASM). Read the full article.

Published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution by Gustavo M. Oliveira, Rafaella F. Ziegert, Andrea Pacheco, Laila Berning, Metodi Sotirov, Jochen Dürr, Daniel Braun, Felipe S. M. Nunes, Britaldo S. Soares-Filho and Jan Börner, on 3 July 2024.

Oliveira, G.M., Ziegert, R.F., Pacheco, A. et al. Blind spots in the EU’s Regulation on Deforestation-free products. Nat Ecol Evol (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-024-02465-x

New methodology for modeling biodiversity developed at UFMG points to new paths for conservation

CLEVER researchers of Centre for Remote Sensing of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) have developed an innovative approach for modeling biodiversity with great implications to biodiversity conservation studies. Led by Ubirajara Oliveira, the study proposes a new methodology that overcomes the challenges posed by the lack of knowledge about biodiversity in remote areas.

Figure 1 – The lack of knowledge in remote areas poses a challenge for biodiversity modeling and conservation

The article entitled “Controlling the Effects of Sampling Bias in Biodiversity Models“, published in the Journal of Biogeography, addresses how sampling biases, or the fact that some regions are better at sampling than others, affect our ability to understand biodiversity patterns. These biases often affect biodiversity estimates, mainly because more accessible regions tend to be more studied. These errors may impact the capacity to identify critical areas for preservation of a diversity of species.

To address this issue, the team developed simulations of virtual species distributions, in which collection biases and the expected results of the modeling were previously fully known. This process allowed the researchers not only to isolate uncontrolled factors present in real data, but also to evaluate the modeling methods under thousands of different species distribution contexts.

Figure 2 – USSE provides more accurate and consistent biodiversity predictions, mitigating impacts of the sampling bias and gaps.

The results indicated that the most used techniques for mapping biodiversity, such as species distribution models and spatial interpolation, often fail to capture the real biological diversity. Then, the team of researchers proposed a new methodology called Uniform Sampling from Sampling Effort, or USSE, which proved to be effective in mitigating the effects of sampling bias. USSE provided more accurate and consistent biodiversity predictions, resulting in a powerful tool for planning and conservation actions.

Figure 3 – Frontier between crop lands and the Amazon Forest in Mato Grosso – Brazil.

In the Brazilian Amazon, for example, many regions remain unknown in terms of biodiversity and deforestation caused by the expansion of agricultural crops and pastures, which puts at risk unknown numbers of species. The ability to propose effective conservation strategies and public policies for these regions, among different factors, also depends on being able to predict accurately the biodiversity distribution to identify the critical areas for preservation.

Written by Ubirajara Oliveira, Britaldo Soares-Filho and Felipe Nunes of the Centre for Remote Sensing of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG).

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.

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

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