Fighting Emissions with Policy

Last week, New York turned into Beijing. While Beijing was recording very clean air at 49 AQI; New York recorded an AQI of 490. (AQI is measured on a scale of 500) This was thanks to the fire in the Canadian forests, sending all of its smoke sweeping down the US.

Indians in the Northeast US were like “Delhi wali feel aa rahi hai” (this feels like home).

Climate change is no longer a disaster in some faraway land about which leaders congregate in Paris and decide to do nothing.

Annual Meeting 2019
Photo by Evangeline Shaw on Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the steps that the EU is taking to reduce the import of products that have been produced in a carbon-intensive way, now they want to stop production that involves deforestation. Many productions such as palm oil, cocoa, coffee, cattle, etc require a lot of land for cultivation and often forests are chopped down to make space for the plantations. 

All sorts of products we rely on have helped erode tropical forests, such as oil palm and timber. But the main cause of global deforestation is, without question, cattle ranching. This is especially true in Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef. As much as 90 percent of all forest that’s been cleared in the Brazilian Amazon is now covered in pasture, most of which is for cattle.

Source: Vox

Palm oil deforestation reached a historic high of 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) per year between 1997 and 2006 in Indonesia. The country is the world’s top producer of palm oil; together with Malaysia, the No. 2 producer, the two Southeast Asian countries account for eight-tenths of global supply. The high deforestation rate in Indonesia was spurred by government policies that encouraged further plantation expansion on the islands of Borneo, Sulawesi and Papua in the early 1990s.

Source: Mongabay

The EU wants to stop people worldwide from destroying forests to meet demand.

The products covered by the new legislation are: cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm-oil, soya and wood, including products that contain, have been fed with or have been made using these commodities (such as leather, chocolate and furniture), as in the original Commission proposal. During the negotiations, MEPs successfully added rubber, charcoal, printed paper products and a number of palm oil derivatives.

Parliament also secured a wider definition of forest degradation that includes the conversion of primary forests or naturally regenerating forests into plantation forests or into other wooded land.

Source: EU Parliament

Now, the trouble often tends to be that one can produce certificates showing that the product has been properly sourced which it may not be. The EU is going the whole 9 yards to make sure that this does not happen.

The Commission will classify countries, or parts thereof, as low-, standard- or high-risk based through an objective and transparent assessment within 18 months of this regulation entering into force. Products from low-risk countries will be subject to a simplified due diligence procedure. The proportion of checks is performed on operators according to the country’s risk level: 9% for high-risk countries, 3% for standard-risk and 1% for low-risk.

The competent EU authorities will have access to relevant information provided by the companies, such as geolocation coordinates, and conduct checks with the help of satellite monitoring tools and DNA analysis to check where products come from.


“Until today, our supermarket shelves have all too often been filled with products covered in the ashes of burned-down rainforests and irreversibly destroyed ecosystems and which had wiped out the livelihoods of indigenous people. All too often, this happened without consumers knowing about it. I am relieved that European consumers can now rest assured that they will no longer be unwittingly complicit in deforestation when they eat their bar of chocolate or enjoy a well-deserved coffee. The new law is not only key in our fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, but should also break the deadlock preventing us from deepening trade relations with countries that share our environmental values and ambitions.”

Source: EU Parliament

This is an incredibly great and heartwarming use of technology including satellites and DNA tracking to make sure that the product is what it is being purported to be and coming from where it is claimed to be.

This is a bold and forward-looking step that has been taken by the EU. The EU represents a huge consumption block and this will certainly cut down on a lot of these activities in countries across Africa, Indonesia and Brazil.

Also, given the nature of crimes that Europeans have committed across the world in the name of imperialism and colonialism, this is perhaps the best reparation that they can offer to all of the indigenous that exist today. Protection from their own.

It has to be mentioned that the EU has also been a beneficiary of these practices. Deforested land is usually appropriated land which reduces input costs and makes it cheaper. 

It would be interesting to see the impact that this has on the prices in the supermarket.

France has in the meantime gone ahead and banned short-haul flights domestically.

In a sweeping effort to cut transport emissions, France formally banned short-distance domestic flights where train travel—a greener alternative—is possible. The ban, which took effect on May 23, is part of an environmental effort that’s been in the works for two years

In 2021, French lawmakers voted to prohibit domestic flights between cities where passengers can travel by train in two-and-a-half hours or less. But that law required European Union approval before it could go into effect.

The European Commission gave the flight ban the green light in December 2022, but narrowed its scope to place less of a burden on consumers. The commission decided that the ban should only apply to flight routes where there are several daily rail options for would-be passengers.

Source: Quartz

The EU stipulation means that now only 3 flights will be banned instead of the original 8 that France had planned to ban. Nevertheless, it is a start.

A ban on private jets has been ruled out by the EU Transport Commission, in what campaigners say is “another missed opportunity” to limit “luxury emissions”.

At a gathering of EU transport ministers yesterday (1 June) a coalition of EU nations led by Austria, France and the Netherlands urged the bloc to tighten its rules around business aviation.

But EU Transport Commissioner Adina Vălean said she has “no intention” to propose new measures aimed at private jets before the end of the Commission’s mandate next year.

“This is another missed opportunity to target the unfair luxury emissions of the super-rich,” says Magdalena Heuwieser, spokesperson for Stay Grounded – a global network of more than 200 organisations seeking to reduce air traffic.

“But no need to wait for the EU level to ban private jets. As the success in Amsterdam shows, bans can also be implemented at airport – as well as country – level.”

Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is planning to stop private jet flights at certain times of day in a bid to reduce emissions from 2025. France, which recently banned short-haul domestic flights, is also looking to squeeze private jet travel through heavy taxation and restrictions.

Source: EU News

There was a more ambitious proposal to ban all private jets in the EU which was shunted out. This is a beginning and slowly and steadily it can become an example to take more steps to curb aviation-related emissions.

Maybe the next ban can be on short-haul international flights. EU nations are so puny there are so many of these short-haul flights even between countries that can be knocked out.

The Europeans are leading the way.





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