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Europe, environmental norms and incentives

Karsenty A.. 2016. In : Plinio Sist (ed.), Stéphanie Carrière (ed.), Pia Parolin (ed.), Pierre-Michel Forget (ed.). Tropical ecology and society reconciliating conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Program and abstracts. Storrs : ATBC, p. 214. Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC 2016), 2016-06-19/2016-06-23, Montpellier (France).

Europe's "soft power" is based on norms, with a great emphasis on environmental ones. As the major commercial partner of more than 100 countries, norms adopted in Europe carry weight in non-European countries that seek to maintain or increase their market share. Europe's environmental norms are, therefore, considered well beyond Europe's boundaries. Sustainable land-use and forestry norms have been particularly promoted by Europe, such as forest certification adopted in some European countries for public purchasing of timber. The most prominent initiative is the association between the EUTR (European Union Timber Regulation) and the FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) initiative under which Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) have been proposed to timber-exporting tropical countries. VPAs call for ensuring the consistency of national laws, propose an independent auditing of the national system of legality verification and a bilateral commercial agreement allowing timber with FLEGT authorisation to be imported in the EU without need for proof of due diligence. The tandem EUTR-FLEGT/VPAs also impact bilateral commercial relationships between, say, China and Indonesia, as Chinese's furniture made with Indonesian timber might be exported to the EU. As a consequence, some Chinese exporters are endorsing certification for their supply chains, and contribute to the diffusion of such standards in non-EU-markets. EU Biodiversity Strategy 2020 states that "the EU will take measures to reduce the biodiversity impact of EU consumption patterns". This is why "zero-deforestation" commodity chains are the new issue involving Europe and some of its largest multinational corporations. Such commitments will have a worldwide impact and competitors are forced to endorse the same ones. But the main difficulty for Europe will be to go beyond the formal endorsement of norms. FLEGT/VPAs implementation has been delayed, and no FLEGT authorisation has yet been delivered. In Indonesia, zero deforestation is contested by unions of small-medium oil palm producers, and challenged by local governments, in spite of government commitment. For tropical countries to endorse standards, Europe relies on a simplified version of the "theory of incentives", assuming stakeholders will become aware of the collective benefits they could expect. Unfortunately, the political economy dimension of the decision processes is more complex. (Texte intégral)

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