France "consumes" almost 15 million hectares of forests

MAINTENANCE Soy, cocoa, beef, wood, pulp, rubber, palm oil … In a report presented Thursday, November 8, WWF explains that France uses, to purchase these seven raw materials, almost 15 million hectares of forests in the world. Explanations with Arnaud Gauffier, head of agriculture and food in this NGO.

La Croix: how to define "imported deforestation"?

Arnaud Gauffier: The "imported deforestation" is linked to the production of raw materials used in the manufacture of products for everyday use. It is palm oil in our diffusers and diesels, soybeans for farm animals, cocoa for baking or car-making rubber or toilet paper. Livestock also contribute to this destruction, to produce meat and leather.

All the main tropical primary forests are affected by this deforestation. Soya, leather and paper are imported from South America, including Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. In recent years, Amazonia has been less threatened than the Cerrado, a region of the savannah that accounts for a third of Brazil's surface and is home to a large number of endemic species: birds, wolves, manes, anteaters, etc.

"The wild world collapses under our eyes"

South Asia is also a victim of this deforestation. Palm oil and rubber are mainly purchased for natural rubber and paper. Another red zone on this deforestation map is Equatorial Africa and the Congo Basin, particularly for tropical timber, palm oil and rubber. Although this deforestation has slowed globally in recent years, the environmental and social consequences in the countries concerned remain very worrying.

What is France's role in this deforestation?

A.G.: Our country, like the other heavyweights of the world economy, contributes to this destruction by importing raw materials: palm oil, soybeans, cotton, cocoa, etc. This "ecological footprint" represents 14.8 million hectares – half of the agricultural area of ​​France, including 5 million in countries at high risk of deforestation.

The government, which is preparing to publish its "national strategy against imported deforestation" in a few days, shows a certain voluntarism in this area. The stakes are high: to contain heating to a tolerable level, strongly limiting greenhouse gas emissions, forest conservation is essential. Deforestation is estimated to represent between 12 and 15% of global emissions.

France wants to be involved in the fight against deforestation

Beyond this new and important document, it will also be necessary for the state to be consistent in its actions. For example, why maintain an outrageous project such as "Montagne d'Or" in Guyana, which provides for the deforestation of 2000 hectares of primary forest?

How could our country reduce this "ecological footprint"?

A.G.In concrete terms, the state should legislate on first generation biofuels at European level, as part of the revision of the Renewable Energy Directive. Objective: to ban those based on palm oil and soy, the most important cause of deforestation.

Some companies have made a "zero deforestation" commitment by the end of 2020. Many large agri-food groups such as Danone Unilever, Carrefour, Casino … have joined this initiative. But most of them are still far from the brand. Consumers also have a role to play: eating less meat, choosing certified organic products or promoting "zero deforestation", using cars less, avoiding waste …

But beware, we must not deprive ourselves of these commodity production in Asia or Africa, giving way to even less interesting companies, but fostering sustainable production that respects the environment.

Captured by Frédérique Schneider

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