In a forlorn attempt to combat deforestation, the EU has passed a new law called the Due Diligence Proposal. Beef, coffee, cocoa, and palm oil are just some of the many staple products it threatens through overregulation. Upheaval is likely in the vegetable oil market in particular thanks to these new rules, with palm oil imports set to suffer in favour of other oils which, suspiciously, are more likely to be produced and sold by EU member states.
Because of the law, palm oil producers may be forced to switch to oils like soybean, olive, and rapeseed, which need more land. Those products are much less land-efficient. You have to chop down a lot more trees to get the same amount of product, which means forcing manufacturers to switch away palm oil will accelerate deforestation, not slow it down. The EU’s solution will make the problem worse. The EU has declared war on palm oil, the most effective and least environmentally harmful vegetable oil, which begs the question: why?
Evidently, reversing deforestation is not the European Union’s top priority. If it were, lawmakers in Brussels would not try to force widely used products like palm oil out of the European market by drowning them in red tape and import bans but would instead investigate where the blame for deforestation really lies and what they can actually do to make a difference.
As a result, it is now practically beyond dispute that the European Union’s primary objective is to create the impression they’re working their socks off to take action against deforestation (rather than actually doing it). It doesn’t seem to be a major concern for the EU whether their new measures succeed in reducing deforestation a decade from now. Instead, they are content with doing some green virtue-signalling by passing new laws and leaving it at that.
The European Parliament has given up the ghost. It has no cards to play on complex environmental issues, so instead it resorts to ham-fisted policies like the Due Diligence Proposal without, ironically, doing proper due diligence on it. The EU seems to have failed to realise (or simply doesn’t care) that its new rules are likely to worsen deforestation, not solve it. It’s short-sighted policymaking – the EU can’t see more than one step ahead. Nothing beyond the immediate seems to be considered.
Manufacturers of food, cosmetics, and other products will have a much harder time using palm oil, the most land-efficient vegetable oil, due to bureaucratic failure and the inappropriate wielding of power in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Thankfully, though, Britain is outside the EU and will not be subject to this barmy new law.
Because of Brexit, Britain is no longer obliged to adopt every ludicrous policy proposal the European Union makes. That means we can avoid a flawed new law that will hasten deforestation, and we can avoid interfering with the markets for food and toiletries to drive up the prices of these necessities at a time when families are already struggling to make ends meet.
To make the Due Diligence Proposal work, the European Union is also requesting companies’ faith in its “verification” procedures. Millions of businesses rely on the trade of goods like palm oil and others like beef, soy, cocoa, and coffee, but the EU seems poised to interrupt that trade in order to ‘verify’ that these products were not linked to deforestation in their supply chains.
When it comes down to it, how much faith do we have in the EU to get that job done? Do we really expect that all that complicated paperwork will be processed in a timely and just manner? It seems unlikely, to say the least. In reality, unnecessary new regulations like this are a terrible obstacle for businesses. Free trade within Europe (and between EU member states and non-EU countries) will be hampered by overzealous and unnecessary rulemaking.
In the case of palm oil, it is especially clear how gratuitous this EU intervention is. The EU says its new law is needed to stop deforestation in supply chains, but the free market is making significant progress to make its production more sustainable without new regulation, thanks to pressure from consumers, with deforestation from palm oil dropping to a four year low before the Due Diligence Proposal has even come into force.
The EU’s Due Diligence Proposal, then, is a classic case of the government (or, in this case, the European super-government) getting involved where it doesn’t belong. Instead of stepping back and allowing the market to implement its own solutions, like we can see happening organically, the European Union has decided to make a clumsy interference in the market, which will make the core problem worse and create a whole host of additional new problems.
Brexit advantages like the ability to dodge this bonkers new law are exactly the kind of thing our politicians should be emphasising more frequently, especially with a general election on the horizon in the next 18 months. British consumers will be in a much stronger position in the future now that we can buy food, toiletries, and other products with palm oil in them without being hindered by the inept European law-making and over-regulation. When the EU provides these helpful reminders of why we voted to leave seven years ago, any pro-Brexit government should be shouting about them from the rooftops!