8 March 2021 | Reading 6 mins.

Addressing the whole picture of imported deforestation

Cerrado is one of the most biodiverse grasslands on the planet

Photo: Bento Viana, WWF Brasil

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Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove
Senior Forest Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office

Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer, WWF European Policy Office

In 2020, 1.1 million people joined the #Together4Forests campaign demanding a strong law to tackle the EU’s footprint on forests and other ecosystems. This was the largest-ever public participation on an environmental topic in the history of the EU, clearly calling for an end to EU-driven deforestation and nature destruction.

2020 was also a year of unprecedented deforestation and fires in the Amazon. As we speak, commodities such as soy (which we mainly import to feed our livestock in Europe), beef, palm oil and cacao are all getting the green light to enter EU markets, regardless of whether forest or other natural habitats are being cleared in the process – be that “legally” or illegally. We may not be the ones destroying iconic landscapes like the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado grassland first-hand, but by accepting these products into our supermarkets, without any questions asked, the EU is part of the problem, when it should be part of the solution.

50% of the Brazilian Cerrado has been lost largely due to the unsustainable production of soy and livestock. Photo: David Bebber, WWF-UK.

The ball is now firmly in the court of the EU institutions to make the law citizens have called for a reality. There have been some good signs already: The European Commission reaffirmed its commitment to propose new deforestation legislation in 2021, with pledges coming in from President Ursula von der Leyen during the One Planet Summit in January 2021, as well as from Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius at the end of 2020 when formally receiving the 1.1 million submissions through the #Together4Forests campaign, which was led by WWF, Greenpeace, ClientEarth, Conservation International and the Environmental Investigation Agency, and supported by more than 160 civil society groups. The European Parliament also passed a resolution laying out its proposal for an ambitious law to halt EU-driven deforestation and nature destruction. These commitments lay strong foundations for a good legislative proposal in 2021.

We may not be the ones destroying iconic landscapes like the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado grassland first-hand, but by accepting these products onto its supermarket shelves – no questions asked – the EU is part of the problem, when it should be part of the solution.

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