The European Union – after China – is the largest importer of products associated with tropical deforestation and related emissions. Eight EU countries, including Belgium, account for as much as 80 percent of deforestation in Europe. This is clear from a new report by the WWF, an international environmental organization.
With the report, the Global Fund for Nature wants to emphasize that future European laws must address the full trajectory of EU consumption in other ecosystems such as the forests and grasslands and wetlands of our planet. After all, the European Commission will release its plan for new EU law against deforestation in the spring. The European Parliament had already called for a commission in October last year.
According to the Environmental Organization, ‘Stepping Up: The EU’s Continuing Impact on Nature Worldwide’ provides a glimpse behind the scenes of EU trade and the impact of tropical deforestation and the destruction of other ecosystems. The report establishes a direct link between the consumption of imported goods and the transformation of ecosystems.
Soy, beef, coffee
Between 2005 and 2017, EU imports deforested 3.5 million hectares, resulting in 1,807 tonnes of CO, the report said.2Emission. Although deforestation associated with EU imports decreased by about 40 per cent between 2005 and 2017, the EU in 2017 accounted for 16 per cent of deforestation related to international trade by 2020,000 ha and 116 million tonnes of CO2. Only China did worse (24 percent). It is followed by the European Union, India (9 per cent), the United States (7 per cent) and Japan (5 per cent).
Products that were the main impetus for deforestation from EU imports between 2005 and 2017 were soy, palm oil, beef, wood products, cocoa and coffee. During that period, eight EU countries – Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Poland and Belgium – accounted for 80 per cent of import deforestation.
“European imports of soy are transforming the Brazilian serrado, the world’s most biodiversity savvy,” said Patrice Vodex, WWF Belgium’s forest policy officer. “If the protection of savannahs, grasslands and wetlands is not included in the new law, the EU will be complicit in the destruction of ecosystems that are valuable for biodiversity and the fight against climate change.”
Belgium is 14,800 hectares per year
According to the WWF, Belgium is responsible for 14,800 hectares of imported deforestation annually due to the use and consumption of those products with the risk of deforestation. It is mainly consumed by agricultural raw materials or used as animal feed. It is mainly about soybeans, palm oil and cocoa.
“Belgium’s role is particularly important because our consumption creates a lot of deforestation, but as it is an important entry point for imports, it is being redistributed to other countries,” says UC Louvain researcher Patrick Mfroid in a press release from WWF Belgium. ‘In addition to a European legal framework, additional national policy and cooperation with European trade partners are needed.’
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Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhow, one of the primary authors of the report, points out that deforestation and ecosystem change around the world are triggering climate and biodiversity crises, destroying livelihoods and threatening health. “Currently the EU is part of the problem, but with the right legislation we can be part of the solution.”
The WWF says the European Commission should consider the report as a ‘final wake-up call’ and therefore present a strong and effective bill. This should prevent products that destroy nature or contribute to human rights violations from ending up in EU markets. “It should go beyond volunteering, but provide clear and effective rules for companies,” says Schulmeister-Oldenhow.