US Congressional Democrats target palm oil, beef trade in deforestation bill

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) questions Governor Gina Raimondo during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on Governor Gina Raimondo’s appointment as Secretary of Commerce on Capitol Hill in Washington , DC, January 26, 2021. Tom Williams / Pool via REUTERS

WASHINGTON / SINGAPORE, Oct.6 (Reuters) – Democrats in the US Congress were due to unveil legislation on Wednesday to curb illegal deforestation globally by restricting trade in certain agricultural products, such as palm oil and livestock , produced with these methods.

The “FOREST law of 2021”, introduced simultaneously in the Senate and the House of Representatives by Democratic Senator Brian Schatz and Representative Earl Blumenauer, could have a major impact on the trade of countries like Brazil and Indonesia, but does facing a tough climb in the divided Congress.

Under Democrats’ bill, companies should improve their monitoring of supply chains for certain commodities, including palm oil, cocoa, soybeans and livestock products, as well as rubber. and wood pulp, to prove that they come from areas that have not been illegally logged. Imports not meeting the standard would be blocked and companies would face prosecution and fines in the United States.

“Deforestation continues to accelerate,” Schatz said in a telephone interview, adding: “It is time to use the economic and political power held by the United States” to reverse this trend.

The legislation is intended in part to provide a model for global governments to tackle deforestation, shortly before the November UN climate conference in Glasgow. Experts estimate that deforestation accounts for around 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

“If deforestation were a country, it would be the third-largest emitter” of greenhouse gases, said Schatz.

Although Schatz is a member of a Senate panel on climate change and Blumenauer chairs a powerful House trade subcommittee, the two lawmakers have so far been unable to generate much support from the part. Republicans, who could block the bill from moving forward, especially in the Senate.

Schatz said no Republican senator has signed the measure, while one in 212 Republican in the House so far is in favor, a Blumenauer aide said.

But the bill, which is also touted as encouraging fair trade, could also be an “interesting political coalition,” Schatz said.

“We want to have a level playing field because obviously none of our products are grown as a result of illegal deforestation,” he said.

There are no plans to incorporate the FOREST law into the sweeping legislation of Democratic President Joe Biden, still under negotiation, which includes major new investments in other initiatives to reduce the carbon emissions responsible for climate change. global.

It is estimated that nearly half of all tropical deforestation is the result of illegal conversion of forests for commercial agriculture. Four commodities – beef, soybeans, palm oil and wood products – are responsible for most of this tropical deforestation.

Blumenauer said the legislation would focus on areas where there is the greatest risk of “inappropriately harvested products” reaching the United States and help those countries develop sophisticated tracking systems by providing financial assistance and knowledge. -do technique.

The bill also seeks to include deforestation in financial crime laws, allowing the United States to prosecute people who use the proceeds of deforestation to finance criminal activity.

“We have real challenges with Brazil,” Blumenauer said, noting a “pretty tough” government there.

“There will come a time when there will be a new administration in Brazil. But in the meantime, we cannot look away as they are removing large swathes of the Amazon basin,” he said.

Reporting by Fathin Ungku in Singapore and Richard Cowan in Washington. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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