Report shows EU imports more goods linked to deforestation than any other region

Posted on 02 July 2013    
Timber ready to be transported to the nearest port or sawmill. Timber extracted without any sustainable technique is a great threat to tropical forests.Utría, Chocó-Darién, Colombia.
© Diego M. Garces / WWF

Brussels, Belgium: Disturbing new evidence has just been published by the European Commission showing that despite the EU’s commitments to reducing gross tropical deforestation by 50% by 2020, the EU imports far more goods that are associated with tropical deforestation (crops and livestock) than expected.

Between 1990 and 2008 Europe imported and consumed about 9 million hectares (ha) of newly deforested land (roughly 3 times the size of Belgium). These figures are however a very conservative estimate and could be much higher in reality as the increasing demand for biomass over the last years is not reflected in the study.

The EU lies well ahead of other industrialized regions: Eastern Asia, including Japan and China imported 4.5 Million ha and North America 1.9 million ha during the same period.

The study “The impact of EU consumption on deforestation” shows that, while the majority of crops and livestock products that can be linked to tropical deforestation are consumed at local or regional level, almost 36% of those traded internationally go to the EU. Increases in consumption of oil crops such as soy, palm oil and related products as well as meat consumption are all major drivers of deforestation in tropical areas.

Quotes from Anke Schulmeister, Senior Forest Policy Officer at WWF European Policy Office

“The EU Commission, Member States and the European Parliament need to act now and review all policies that are linked to the consumption of resources derived from tropical deforested areas if we really are serious about tackling our share of the global problem. It is not good enough for policy makers to play the game of “hear no evil, see no evil” when it comes to the destruction of forest areas outside the EU.

“It is a sad fact that large parts of the EU’s agricultural supplies are based on the exploitation of newly acquired forest lands. Clearly our actual contribution to global warming and loss of biodiversity is much higher than we previously thought, when taking into account our indirect impacts.” We need to reduce our environmental footprint by looking at how our resource consumption affects these countries. We also need to enforce standards necessary to ensure that crop and livestock, consumed in the EU are produced efficiently and sustainably.”

“There is no silver bullet to the problem of deforestation. What the report does show is that policy coherence is needed in the fields of environmental, agricultural, trade and consumer policy which are all vital in tackling the EU’s role in deforestation.”

“The 7th European Action Plan for the Environment should give concrete guidance on how we can both reduce our impact on these threatened forests and help reduce the consumption of products linked to deforestation”.

Editor’s Note:

In the Council conclusions from 4th December 2008, the Council supported the aim proposed by the Commission to reduce gross tropical deforestation by 50% by 2020:

To increase the efficiency and sustainability of commodities like timber, palm oil and soy, WWF engages in the round tables on palm oil and soy and works with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

The EU’s footprint is way beyond the bio-capacity available within the EU. The world average available biocapacity per person was 1.8 gha in 2008 while the use of an average European was 4.72 gha.

To read the full report Comprehensive analysis of the impact of EU consumption of imported food and non-food commodities and manufactured goods on deforestation, 2013:

To get additional information on WWF’s Policy on Forestry :

For further information: 

Philippe Carr
WWF European Policy Office

Media & Communications
Tel: +32 476 25 68 79

Source of the article

Timber ready to be transported to the nearest port or sawmill. Timber extracted without any sustainable technique is a great threat to tropical forests.Utría, Chocó-Darién, Colombia.
© Diego M. Garces / WWF Enlarge