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President of pushing for tough restrictions on how land is used in poorer countries while adopting a “protectionist” stance when it comes to his own country. Pieter Cleppe, a research fellow with the think tank Property Rights Alliance, was commenting after the European Union published its draft anti-deforestation law, intended to stop beef, palm oil and other products linked to deforestation from being sold with the bloc’s single market.
However, Mr Cleppe suggested the net effect would unfairly penalise poor nations – and could actually do more harm than good.
He told Express.co.uk: “French President Emmanuel Macron has been one of the driving forces behind this push for new EU protectionism.
“Apart from the matter that palm oil producers in poorer countries may be forced to opt for alternative, more damaging land use, it is ironic that the same Macron has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent French farming companies from losing out on lucrative EU agricultural subsidies that are tied to ownership of agricultural land.”
In effect, the same EU which was subsidising intensive agricultural land use was trying to restrict how land was used in poorer parts of the world, Mr Cleppe explained.
He added: “This kind of protectionism then benefits EU agricultural interests that are often living off taxpayers.”
Roughly one-third of the EU’s €1.1trillion multi-annual budget was still spent on the agricultural sector, Mr Cleppe pointed out.
He said: “The money is still mainly distributed on the basis of ownership of agricultural land, with 80 percent of the cash going to 20 percent of the recipients.
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“In other words, large industrial concerns are the benefactors.
“They probably do not mind that the same EU which is subsidising intensive agriculture in Europe with taxpayers’ money goes around banning imports from outside the EU, supposedly out of concern for how land is used.”
Critics have suggested because the proposed EU legislation excludes wetland areas, farmers in for example Brazil may be forced to turn to that kind of production instead, an approach which clearly would not benefit the cause of preventing deforestation.
Mr Cleppe said: “The example of palm oil is really EU protectionism at its worst.
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“The EU’s proposed restrictions here really come at the expense of poorer countries.
“Also the WWF believes that palm oil production does not have to be destructive and can be produced responsibly as a part of sustainable development.”
He claimed: “What the EU is doing is not to stop production of the crop but to remove incentives for sustainable production.
“The main beneficiaries will be those countries that do not care about sustainability that will have access to low-cost palm oil.
“More land will be cleared and more habitats will be destroyed – and there will be no market pressures to make this stop.
“Sustainable producers should be encouraged by developed countries, rather than discouraged by their short-term protectionist policies.”
Speaking at the One Planet summit in Paris in January, Mr Macron pointed to the failure to implement the UN’s so-called Aichi biodiversity targets for 2020.
He added: “Not a single one of the twenty Aichi targets has been implemented, such as putting an end to species extinction or cutting pollution, and we have to face up to this failure and learn its lessons.”
Commenting on the EU’s policy in 2019, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned: “The EU ban on palm oil favours alternative crops like rapeseed and soybeans that are grown in Europe as a source of oil for biofuel.
“However, these alternative crops require much more land to generate the same amount of oil as palm plantations, and they store less CO2 than palm oil.
“Rapeseed, for example produces four to 10 times less oil than palm oil per unit of land and requires more fertiliser and pesticides.
“Net palm oil production is more efficient in preventing climate change through biofuel than alternative crops.”
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