Climate policy expert calls on EU to act on “imported deforestation”

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

The former head of UN climate negotiations has used a speech in Brussels to demand the EU acts to stop its agricultural imports driving global deforestation.

“Deforestation represents a significant threat for the climate, and Europe ought to focus on the impact of its consumption abroad,” said Christiana Figueres, former secretary-general of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and one of the architects of the Paris agreement.

Addressing an audience of EU officials as climate week opened in New York, she described forestry and agriculture as the “forgotten sector” of climate action.

“The whole food, land and forest issue is one package that hasn’t received enough attention,” Figueres said, adding that the EU must take responsibility for its role as a major importer of commodities that drive clearances. She called on the EU to develop an action plan to tackle the issue, echoing a resolution passed by the EU parliament earlier this year.

A 2014 study authored by Earthsight director Sam Lawson demonstrated that the EU is among the world’s biggest importers of products resulting from illegal deforestation.

Stolen Goods: the EU’s complicity in illegal tropical deforestation estimated that, in 2012 alone, the EU imported EUR 6 billion of soy, beef, leather and palm oil that had been grown or reared on land illegally cleared of forests in the tropics. It found that, between 2000 and 2012, one football pitch of forest was illegally felled every two minutes to supply the EU with these commodities.


Graphic from Stolen Goods report which charted extent of EU's complicity in illegal deforestation

The EU is already committed to acting on deforestation. In 2008, it pledged to reduce gross tropical forest loss by 50 percent by 2020, and halt it altogether by 2030. It reiterated this commitment in 2014 by endorsing the New York Declaration on Forests, which included a specific pledge to tackle deforestation resulting from the production of agricultural commodities.

EU members Germany, France, Holland, the UK, Denmark and Italy have also signed the Amsterdam Declaration, which strengthened their commitment to work together to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodity supply chains by 2020.

Most recently, in April this year, the EU Parliament passed a resolution calling on the European Commission to develop an ‘EU Action Plan on Deforestation’.

Despite these many commitments, however, on current trends Europe’s contribution to global deforestation is set to  rise by more than a quarter by 2030, according to a draft EU analysis which leaked earlier this year.