Stepping up: The continuing impact of EU consumption on nature

Posted on April, 14 2021

The EU is one of the world’s largest importers of tropical deforestation and associated emissions, second only to China, a this new WWF report has found.
As the European Commission gets set to present its proposal for new EU legislation to address deforestation in the spring, the report underscores the urgent need for the law to address the entirety of the footprint of EU consumption on our planet’s forests and other ecosystems, such as grasslands and wetlands. 

Based on data and insights compiled by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and through the transparency initiative Trase, Stepping up: The continuing impact of EU consumption on nature provides a revealing look behind the scenes of EU trade, and its hand in tropical deforestation and the destruction of other ecosystems worldwide. 
Key findings from the report: 
  • The EU is the second biggest importer of deforestation after China. In 2017, the EU was responsible for 16% of deforestation associated with international trade, totalling 203,000 hectares and 116 million tonnes of CO₂. The EU was surpassed by China (24%) but outranked India (9%), the United States (7%) and Japan (5%). 
  • Between 2005-2017, soy, palm oil and beef were the commodities with the largest embedded tropical deforestation imported into the EU, followed by wood products, cocoa and coffee. 
  • During this period, the largest EU economies – Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Poland – were responsible for 80% of the EU’s embedded deforestation through their use and consumption of forest-risk commodities.
  • EU demand for these commodities is also driving destruction in non-forest ecosystems, such as grasslands or wetlands. The report establishes clear links between EU consumption, particularly of soy and beef, and the conversion of grassland landscapes, such as the “deforestation hotspots” of the Cerrado in Brazil and the Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay. (These were also identified in WWF’s recent Deforestation Fronts report).
WWF Report: Stepping up: The continuing impact of EU consumption on nature (April 2021)