Greenpeace International

Commission-funded report blames Europe for global forest destruction

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Source: Greenpeace International

EU needs zero-deforestation strategy, says Greenpeace

Brussels -- Europe leads the industrialised world in driving global deforestation, according to an independent report released today by the European Commission [1]. European consumption of goods led to a forest loss of at least nine million hectares between 1990 and 2008, an area the size of Ireland.

Forests in the Amazon, South-East Asia and Africa were worst affected. Major industrialised economies, along with China, were responsible for about one third of all deforestation that occurred globally in the same period. Europe’s ever-growing demand for meat, dairy products, biomass and biofuels for energy, and other products that require large areas of land, has put increasing pressure on forest ecosystems around the world.

A detailed analysis of the year 2004 within the study showed that the EU was the biggest contributor to forest destruction from imports, with at least ten per cent of global deforestation linked to its consumption of commodities [2], at least twice as much as east Asia (China and Japan) and three times as much as North America. Global trends suggest this figure will continue to grow in the coming years, particularly because of rising food and animal feed demands and plans to increase consumption of biofuels.

Greenpeace EU forest policy director Sebastien Risso said: 'Europe has been eating up vast areas of the planet’s forests to fuel an insatiable consumption of meat, energy and timber. The study shows that our forest footprint will continue to grow unless the EU acts to break the pattern. It’s high time for Europe to take forests off our menu and out of our fuel tanks.”

While the report shows that industrialised regions bear a significant responsibility for global deforestation, the majority of deforestation is linked to consumption that takes place within the countries or regions where commodities are produced. The report identifies two main drivers of deforestation - the consumption of livestock and animal feed industries, and of vegetable oil for food and fuel.

Greenpeace has campaigned against companies that use or market these products, including Nestle, Cargill, meat giant JBS, Neste Oil and Unilever, to highlight deforestation within their supply chains. In May 2010, food giant Nestle committed to remove deforestation-linked products from its supply chain, and in February this year the world’s largest paper company, Asian Pulp and Paper, committed to a new forest conservation policy aimed to end its involvement in deforestation [3].

Deforestation leads to habitat and biodiversity loss. Forest destruction also releases millions of tonnes of climate-changing greenhouse gases every year. Hundreds of millions of people around the world directly or indirectly rely on forests for their subsistence, according to the World Bank [4].

In 2008, EU environment ministers pledged to pursue the goal of halting global forest loss by 2030 and at least halving tropical deforestation by 2020, compared to 2008 levels [5]. Following a political agreement last week, the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme will call on the EU to consider comprehensive plans to tackle deforestation and forest degradation on a global scale. Any successful plan needs to implement policies that eliminate commodities and products linked to deforestation from the EU market, while also supporting developing countries to tackle deforestation in their own territories, said Greenpeace.

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