Special Focus: EU Green Deal - How our lifestyle impacts our environment


Perrine Laroche and Claudia Parra Paitan had the opportunity to present the COUPLED project at the MSCA European Green Deal Cluster Event that took place on 6 and 7 July 2021. They told us about their project and reflected on the EU Green Deal.

Claudia Parra Paitan, in her own words

Claudia is a Biologist doing research on the sustainability of cocoa production and trade in West Africa and the world. She has worked before with rural farming communities of Andean mountain areas to help them adapt to climate change and improve the sustainability of production systems.

Perrine Laroche, in her own words

Perrine’s background is in Geography and Economics. She does research on the spatial dimension of environmental impacts associated with current and alternative Western lifestyles.

Both our interviewees are committed to tackling ecosystem degradation through their research.

Claudia is currently working on the sustainability implications of global cocoa trade by analysing the market configuration of cocoa traders and the sustainability commitments covering the supply chain at global level and in each consuming and producing country.

From her side, Perrine is currently investigating whether the meanings people attribute to landscapes, ecosystems, or species change as a function of the physical distance between them and nature.

They had the opportunity to work side by side on the COUPLED project.

“Nowadays, products contain raw materials from all over the world“

Globalisation has reduced the virtual distances between countries through the increase of international trade. “Nowadays, products contain raw materials from all over the world and thus, something produced in Asia can be consumed in Europe after having gone back and forth several times to other areas as a routinary process of modern value chains,” explain our interviewees when mentioning the context of their project.

The COUPLED project, an MSCA Innovative Training Network, aimed to investigate the causes and consequences of these increasing connections between distant places to better understand the sustainability issues tied to these dynamics.

“COUPLED looks at how these connections relate to different land-based products such as soy, cocoa, coffee, oil palm, gold, but also to many other phenomena driving the demand and supply of those, such as infrastructure development, diets, lifestyles, conservation policies, market flows, news, and trade regulations,” add Perrine and Claudia.

“More attention needs to be paid to the negative impacts that EU consumption and production has abroad”

Both our interviewees think that the EU Green Deal helps to move the sustainability agenda forward by sending a strong sustainability signal to the world. “However, we believe that more attention needs to be paid to the negative impacts that EU consumption and production have abroad,” say Claudia and Perrine.

Both agree that the EU’s import of unsustainably produced items and the offshoring of certain polluting production activities can generate those negative impacts on the environment. “Due diligence mechanisms are being prepared to tackle this challenge and this is a good sign. However, the deep interconnection of global markets calls for policies aiming to address the drivers of unsustainable practices in producing countries to effectively leave no one behind,” they add.

“Research is essential to make informed policy decisions”

To them, the role of researchers in implementing the Green Deal’s objectives is paramount. “Research is essential to make informed policy decisions. To support the objective of the Green Deal, research must examine the impacts that the European economy has beyond its borders due to the production and consumption of land-based products in the European Union,” explain Perrine and Claudia.

Research can also provide us with tools and methods to understand the drivers behind unsustainable practices and the direct and not-so-obvious indirect impacts of the European economy. “This is essential to guide the Green Deal agenda,” they add.

Both agree that the biggest challenge ahead is to avoid displacing emissions and negative impacts to other nations and markets. “The situation of ‘net zero’ has to be carefully defined to avoid rewarding polluting or unsustainable entities that have the financial capacity to compensate rather than reduce emissions or correct unsustainable practices,” conclude Perrine and Claudia.

Aurélia Chaise
MCAA Editorial Team

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