Challenges and new chances in EU Green Deal
Organics Aotearoa NZ chief executive Tiffany Tompkins says there are more questions to answer yet around the impact of the EU Green Deal.
A research paper on the European Union’s Green Deal reveals an umbrella of policies adopted to make the bloc climate neutral by 2050 that will pose significant challenges for New Zealand’s primary export sectors.
Organics Aotearoa NZ chief executive Tiffany Tompkins presented the findings of the research, which was funded by the Our Land Our Water National Science Challenge and titled EU Green Deal: Impact on NZ’s land-based primary producers, at the NZ Landcare Trust-OLW, Food, Farming and Freshwater roadshow in Canterbury.
Tompkins said the Green Deal, especially the Farm to Fork strategy, presents both challenges and opportunities for NZ exports into the EU.
“What opportunities and how we are placed to capitalise on these now and into the future is the challenge.
“All countries, like NZ, are getting their heads around the EU Green Deal,” she said.
Trade agreements recently concluded by the NZ government and those currently under negotiation increasingly include clauses related to environmental concerns such as greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, water quality and biodiversity loss.
The EU is one of the most prolific drivers of environmental and social outcomes in international trade policies.
It makes no secret of its objective of utilising trade to support its domestic sustainability agenda, as defined in the Green Deal.
The Green Deal is an umbrella of policies comprising strategic initiatives in all sectors of the economy, with significant changes to notable industries, transportation, energy, building and agriculture with financial and legal measures backing key action areas.
Tompkins said several areas of focus for the Green Deal are likely to pose significant challenges for NZ’s export sectors, not only directly in the context of the NZ-EU Free Trade Agreement but also due to the potential for the EU’s practices and regulations to become de facto global standards for sustainable trade and be adopted by NZ’s other major trading partners.
“The regulatory regime in NZ, both current and proposed, appears to lag significantly behind the equivalent systems emerging in the EU.
“This implies that NZ’s legislators and regulators, along with industry representative bodies in major export-oriented primary and food-producing industries, will need to significantly increase the levels of environmental and social ambition inherent in the policies currently under development in NZ.
“Failure to do so might result in significant reductions in the levels of market access available to NZ exporters, not only in the EU but also in other major markets such as China, the United States and the United Kingdom, as these countries are compelled to increase their own ambition levels in these areas to protect the interests of their domestic producers.”
The EU sees organic agriculture as central to increasing sustainable agriculture.
Its Farm to Fork strategy includes a target of at least 25% of the EU’s agricultural land being under organic farming by 2030.
In light of these developments, certified organic products from NZ are likely to benefit from improved market access into the EU, as the implementation of EU standards and restrictions reduces the scope of opportunities for conventionally farmed products.
“This in turn increases both the importance of the process of developing a National Organic Standard for NZ along with accompanying regulations and the level of urgency attached to this process.”
The EU’s organic regulations outline the rules that will apply for recognising the equivalence of organic products from countries outside of the EU and stipulate that such equivalence must be negotiated with the EU by December 31, 2025.
“NZ’s negotiators are currently awaiting the opportunity to negotiate the equivalence of its organic legislation with their EU counterparts. However, it is not yet clear when they might be invited to do so.”
Key implications of the Green Deal and the various policies that sit beneath it include a ban on the importation into the EU of products containing residues of pesticides and agricultural chemicals banned from use in the EU.
Currently, the EU’s list of banned chemicals and pesticides comprises 195 items, while NZ’s comparable list of banned substances is 27 items long.
A similar ban on the importation into the EU of products associated with deforestation within a fixed time frame, likely to be after December 31, 2020, will see the responsibility for ensuring that products are free from any association with deforestation lie with the producer.
“NZ already has the grounds of a good positive base. The NZ clean, green story is respected. What an incredible opportunity to grow this with discerning consumers looking at the grade of their product.
“This is Phase 1 of the research. There are more questions yet to answer.
“Everyone needs to understand, not just the Fonterra or Zespri. We need to keep leading as NZ Inc,” Tompkins said.