Pressroom  >  Press Releases  >  European Commission takes action to tackle commodity-driven deforestation, but falls short of committing to stronger regulation and market incentives
ADVISORY Agriculture Forests

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Genevieve Bennett
gbennett@forest-trends.org
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE This week, the EC released its long-anticipated plan to amplify the EU’s action against deforestation. This represents a significant step in the right direction to regulate EU imports of palm oil, soy, timber, and other commodities.

European demand has been linked to nearly a quarter of global trade in commodities produced on illegally deforested land.

The Communication prioritizes partnerships with the countries that produce these agricultural commodities. EU assistance will aimed at promoting good governance, which is critical to stopping illegal deforestation. This is especially important in countries still transitioning to rule of law, such as Myanmar.

“Forest Trends welcomes the EC Communication as an acknowledgement that the EU needs to exert its market leverage and draw attention to the negative impact European consumption is having on the world’s forests,” said Kerstin Canby, Director of Forest Trends’ Forest Policy, Trade, and Finance Initiative.

“Although the current plan stresses voluntary partnerships and action, we are glad to see that the EC acknowledges that a regulatory approach needs to be on the table. Given the current scale of forest destruction, the EC must move faster to assess concrete, legally binding regulatory actions.”

The EU already has regulations in place to block the import of illegal harvested timber. Those regulations can be a model for similar rules to keep commodities linked to unsustainable or illegal deforestation from entering EU markets, said Canby.

“Relying only on existing commitments, partnerships, and international cooperation without legally binding legislation will mean the EC inevitably falling short of its goals,” said Canby.

More than half of global tree cover loss (and up to 80% in tropical forested countries) is driven by agriculture. Forest Trends has found that nearly half of this deforestation was due to the illegal conversion of forests for agricultural commodity production. Consumer demand for beef, soy, palm oil, and wood products is a key driver of tropical deforestation.

Such forest loss accelerates climate change, degrades biodiverse ecosystems, and has led to human rights violations and poverty among the 1.6 billion indigenous and local people who rely on forests.

Some of the world’s leading companies have taken action to rid their supply chains of deforestation. But new research from Forest Trends and CERES shows that 44% of companies with deforestation risk haven’t made any sustainability commitments whatsoever.

 “In the face of this grave challenge, existing voluntary commitments by the world’s corporate sustainability leaders are a critical step – but they are not enough,” concluded Canby. “Voluntary action allows leaders to set the ambition. But it needs to be complemented by regulation that create a minimum standard for the laggards and would-be bad actors.”

History has shown us that in the trajectory to eliminate ‘global bads’ such as illegal logging, forced labor, and conflict diamonds, national and international regulations are necessary to stop damaged caused by the laggards.”

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