Lip service on deforestation - Is the EU taking its commitment to halt deforestation by 2020 seriously?
The EU contributes to the problem of deforestation by importing products like palm oil, beef and leather, soy and cocoa, but also timber from deforested and converted areas. However, while the EU is part of the problem of global deforestation, the research shows that it can also be part of the solution, by significantly stepping up its efforts to address the impacts of its consumption and adopting a coherent and comprehensive approach.
WWF welcomes the publication of this long awaited study, since it clearly demonstrates that meaningful action on deforestation from an EU perspective is possible. The study proposes a number of actions for supply in producer countries; for demand in the EU; and also for investments and the finance sector. From a WWF perspective, a holistic approach that would include all of these different dimensions is required.
“The failure of the European Commission to propose concrete measures to reduce the EU’s destructive footprint on global forests is truly alarming. The finding of this study must be a wake-up call, and they also provide a solid basis for urgent action, if the EU is serious about its international commitments – and responsibility! - to halt deforestation by 2020 and to combat climate change,” said Anke Schulmeister, Senior Policy Officer on Forests of WWF’s European Policy Office.
“Interestingly, the private sector is far more progressive than the legislator when it comes to reducing the EU’s global footprint, with numerous companies already having concrete commitments in place to curb forest destruction in their supply chains. This study is a call to the European Commission to come forward with a proposal to complement these industry efforts to ensure coherent implementation of commitments they made and to create a level playing field for the European market – we urgently call on the Commission to do more than just pay lip service.”
To address the problem, a mix of actions will be needed, which WWF would like to see expressed in an EU Action Plan on deforestation and forest degradation, namely:
- supporting producer countries in addressing problems with deforestation, looking at unsustainable agricultural practices but also at governance and land use challenges, including human rights;
- addressing over-consumption in the EU as well as other drivers;
- introducing regulatory measures to ensure that products placed on the EU market are sustainable and not contributing to deforestation , to complement voluntary measures, level the market playing field and support a sustainable economy.
Halting deforestation by 2020 is one of the Sustainable Development Goals that the EU committed to, and it is also critical to reach the Paris Agreement’s objective of limiting global temperature increase to 2C while aiming for 1.5C. Currently emissions from deforestation and forest degradation account for 11 per cent of the global total.
The main direct cause of deforestation remains agricultural expansion, which accounts for up to 80 per cent of global levels.
According to FAO estimates, around 7.6 million ha of forests were lost every year at the global level between 2010 and 2015. While the rate of deforestation appears to have slowed compared to previous decades, it nevertheless remains alarmingly high.
Studies by the European Commission show that the EU has been the leading importer of “embedded deforestation” between 1990 and 2008.
The associated environmental, economic and social impacts are significant. The livelihoods of more than 1.6 billion people are estimated to be dependent on forest resources. Forests are not only an essential source of timber, food and fibres, but they are also home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, are a major provider of various ecosystem services, and play a significant role in the global carbon cycle. Deforestation accounts annually for more greenhouse emissions than the total EU economy.