The European Commission releases a study (outlining the full extent of the European Union’s (EU) contribution to deforestation. It finds that the EU consumes crops and livestock which account for 36 per cent of the global deforestation embodied in traded products, making it the largest deforester in the world. In response, FERN, the European forest NGO, has called upon the EU to develop an Action Plan to address its destructive consumption patterns. The study is the result of a 2008 Commission Communication which states the EU’s aim to halve deforestation by 2020 and stop deforestation by 2030. The Communication requested that the Commission “study the impact of EU consumption of imported food and non-food commodities (e.g. meat, soy beans, palm oil, metal ores) that are likely to contribute to deforestation. This could lead to considering policy options to reduce this impact".
Saskia Ozinga, campaigns coordinator at FERN explained: “Although this report shows the EU as the world’s biggest deforester, the real picture may even be worse as deforestation has increased due to consumption of biofuels (palm oil) since 2004 when some of the data used for the study was collected(3). Worse still, EU plans to increase biomass use will require an additional 318 million m3 of round wood from forests between 2010 and 2020, wood which is simply not available.”
The EU has been able to convincingly tackle deforestation related problems before. In 1990, confronted with the negative impact on illegal logging, the EU developed an Action Plan to reduce illegal logging, successfully reducing illegal logging and strengthening communities’ rights to the land they rely on.
The challenge for the EU is to come up with an Action Plan to address deforestation caused by large scale agriculture in a similar way as it did with illegal logging: by linking demand side measures in the EU to improving governance in producer countries: an Action Plan on Demand-led Reduction of Agricultural Deforestation (DRAD). Such an Action Plan is also called for in the EU’s Seventh Environmental Action Programme.