Two years ago, 1.2 million European citizens, including from Central and Eastern Europe, had asked for a law that would keep deforestation out of their fridges and off their kitchen tables. As ministers in the Environment Council and Members in the European Parliament are discussing a future EU Deforestation law, people at home turn to the World Wide Web for answers. Autocomplete suggestions reveal that the same kind of questions are looked up on the Internet everywhere in Europe: “What is deforestation?”, “What causes deforestation?” and “How can we stop deforestation?”. These inspired scientists and experts from seven countries - Belgium, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden - to respond to all those citizens worried about forests. Daily life examples of why deforestation concerns us all, and what we can do about it are gathered in a series of short videos.
Forests cover 31% of the land area on earth. But these are disappearing fast, an area almost the size of Sweden every 12 years. More precisely, over 43 million hectares were lost in the tropics and subtropics between 2004 and 2017, in vast tropical deforestation hotspots1 in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. And the EU plays a big role in this. The EU is, in fact, the second biggest importer of deforestation after China.
However, the EU’s own forests are also suffering as they are losing diversity of habitats and species. Reasons for forest degradation in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe can for example be illegal logging or unsustainable harvesting practices. This is why the draft law also aims at disincentivizing forest degradation, inside and outside Europe.
“The definition of forest degradation applied by this new piece of legislation should encompass any changes within a forest that negatively affect its species composition or function. The capacity of forests to provide multiple benefits to nature and people such as water retention or climate change mitigation is critical and must be maintained, in the Green Heart of Europe and globally”, says Irene Lucius, Regional Conservation Director of WWF-Central and Eastern Europe.
“In the Amazon, the primary reason for deforestation is cattle breeding and soybean production. Most of the soy will be animal feed, and much of the beef will go to North America and Europe. So, with a little exaggeration, we can also say that the primeval forests will become burgers”, explains Dr Réka Aszalós, forest ecologist and employee of the Ecological Research Center, Hungary. More than half of the Cerrado in Brazil, the most biodiverse savannah in the world, located next to the Amazonian rainforest, has already been cleared, mainly to make room for soy and beef production. In 2019, EU imports of beef from the Cerrado accounted for 26% of the EU’s total imported beef.
WWF and nearly 200 other NGOs have long advocated for EU legislation on deforestation through the #Together4Forests campaign and will continue to fight for a law that can make a real change. All eyes are now on EU governments and the European Parliament to deliver ambitious results.
For more information, please contact:
- Anke Schulmeister–Oldenhove, Senior Forest Policy Officer, firstname.lastname@example.org tel +32 485 84 31 44
- Adriana Trocea Communications Officer, Deforestation, email@example.com tel +40 728 27 87 37
Notes for editors
- Find out more about the #Together4Forest
- Deforestation Fronts - Drivers and responses in a changing world
- Stepping up: The continuing impact of EU consumption on nature
- Beyond Forests: Reducing the EU’s footprint on all natural ecosystems
List of scientists & experts (by country):
- Bart Muys, Professor of Forest Ecology and Forest Management at the KU Leuven, Belgium; Patrick Meyfroidt, Professor of Land Use Change and Forest Transition, Belgium;
- Dr Réka Aszalós, Forest Ecologist and employee of the Ecological Research Center, Hungary;
- Giorgio Vacchiano, Professor of forest management and planning, University of Milan, Italy;
- Katarzyna Karpa-Świderek, Press Spokeswoman, WWF-Poland;
- Miguel Bastos Araújo, Research Professor of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) and visiting Professor at the University of Évora, Portugal;
- Radu Melu, National Coordinator of the Forest Department at WWF-Romania;
- Martin Persson, Professor in land-use science at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Quotes from scientists & experts:
- Bart Muys, Professor of Forest Ecology and Forest Management at the KU Leuven, Belgium: “It is true that a lot of palm oil is imported as a result of recent deforestation, but that is not always the case. So, if we can find chocolate spread that's made with palm oil but that's certified not to come from recent deforestation, that's pretty good. All the more so because palm oil has a very productive production system that can actually produce a lot of oil with little land”.
- Patrick Meyfroidt, Professor of Land Use Change and Forest Transition, Belgium: “Imported deforestation is deforestation that takes place particularly in tropical regions, to produce agricultural or forestry products that are then imported into different countries, for example, Belgium. For Belgium, this represents about 12 to 15,000 hectares per year, about the size of the Brussels region, which are destroyed each year in tropical regions for products in Belgium”.
- Dr Réka Aszalós, Forest Ecologist and employee of the Ecological Research Center, Hungary: “The primary reason for deforestation, including the deforestation of primeval forests, is the expansion of agriculture. In the Amazon, the primary reason for this is cattle breeding and soybean production. Most of the soy will be animal feed, and much of the beef will go to North America and Europe. So, with a little exaggeration, we can also say that the primeval forests will become burgers”.
- Giorgio Vacchiano, Professor of Forest Management and Planning, University of Milan, Italy: ”Living in countries where deforestation is negligible, we need to pay attention to what we consume. The European Union is working on a draft of a regulation to minimise the imported deforestation, but we can all start to question ourselves about the place of origin of the products we consume, particularly the food that ends in our plates”.
- Martin Persson, Professor in Land-use science at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden: “Deforestation is contributing to climate change. About one tenth of global carbon dioxide emissions come from deforestation. Swedish imports of goods alone can be linked to deforestation that cause emissions of 2–3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.”
- Miguel Bastos Araújo, Research Professor of the Spanish Research Council (CSIC) and visiting Professor at the University of Évora, Portugal: ”Firstly, there is our individual responsibility as consumers - what we consume has an impact. Secondly, it is very important that producers, on the one hand, try to combine food production with some maintenance/conservation of biodiversity in their territories when possible”.
- Katarzyna Karpa-Świderek, Press Spokeswoman, WWF Poland: “Forests are home to two-thirds of the earth's species, but they are also home to the people who live in these forests, especially indigenous peoples. For them, the loss of forests also means a loss of cultural identity”.
About WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature)
WWF is an independent conservation organization, with more than 30 million followers and a global network active through local leadership in over 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF’s global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment. Find out more on wwf.eu.
1 Pacheco, P., Mo, K., Dudley, N., Shapiro, A., Aguilar-Amuchastegui, N., Ling, P.Y., Anderson, C. and Marx, A. 2021. Deforestation fronts: Drivers and responses in a changing world. WWF, Gland, Switzerland.
Thumbnail image: © Edward Parker / WWF