Clearing land for agriculture is the world’s biggest driver of deforestation, and the EU bears significant responsibility. The EU is the second biggest importer of agricultural goods which cause deforestation - much of it illegal. An area of forest the size of Portugal was lost globally between 1990 and 2005 because of EU consumption of commodities grown on deforested land. But the EU’s imports of these 'forest-risk commodities' - such as soy, palm oil, beef, cocoa and leather - don’t just drive deforestation, they fuel human rights abuses, from child labour to land grabs.

What do Fern and our partners want? 

EU laws that make it mandatory for companies to know the history of any agricultural commodity they import and to identify, prevent, and mitigate any negative environmental, social and human rights impacts.
To address the root causes of deforestation, the EU must develop partnerships with producer countries in a transparent and inclusive manner, including forest-dependent peoples in both negotiations and implementation.

What are we doing? 

The EU is working on an EU Action Plan on Deforestation, and Fern and our partners in the EU and tropical forested countries are campaigning to ensure that the plan includes robust regulations that stop products which destroy the world’s forests and violate human rights from entering the EU. These laws must also address the financial markets supporting these violations.

What are the causes of deforestation?

Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation. Eighty per cent of global forest loss is due to converting forests to farmland to produce agricultural commodities, such as beefsoy, palm oil and rubber which are largely exported. 

Agricultural deforestation happens because of increased global demand for such commodities, government policies to stimulate that demand, and trade and finance policies that facilitate their expansion and sale. 

Other causes include illegal logging, mining and poor forest management

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Are corporate voluntary commitments to halt deforestation working?

More than 450 companies in the food and agriculture sector have made commitments to stop deforesting and respect human rights. But it has become increasingly clear that these companies cannot achieve this goal on their own.

systematic analysis of 250 companies, 150 financial institutions and 50 national and subnational jurisdictions revealed that the rate of progress by most companies falls far below what would be required to meet the European Union’s (EU) international commitment to halt deforestation by 2020. What’s more: there is no evidence that these commitments are having the intended impact.

There are many reasons for this...

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December 2018

The European Commission publishes a roadmap announcing plans to “step up European Action against Deforestation and Forest Degradation”. 

March 2019

More than 50 NGOs and forest experts and defenders from around the world sign Fern’s Forest Pledge, asking future MEPs to pledge to promote policies to protect and restore forests worldwide.

May 2019

A YouGov poll finds overwhelming support among the EU public for regulating products that drive deforestation, with 87 per cent of those polled indicating that new laws are needed.

May 2019

The Netherlands passes a new law requiring companies to ensure that their supply chains are free of child labour. 

June 2019

340+ civil society organisations call for the EU to prevent the worsening human rights and environmental situation in Brazil by suspending trade talks.

June 2019

Finland’s new government reveals it will develop a national human rights due diligence law and promote such a regulation at European level. 

July 2019

The European Commission releases its long-overdue plans to combat global deforestation. Stepping up EU Action to Protect and Restore the World’s Forests came after five years of intense NGO campaigning. The Communication finally opens the door to the possibility of regulating supply chains to minimise the risk of deforestation associated with the EU’s agricultural imports.

August 2019

Images of the Amazon burning cause global outrage. Fern was among 26 NGOs who sent an urgent letter to EU leaders calling on them to end European complicity in the destruction. 

December 2019

Some of the world’s biggest chocolate manufacturers call on the EU to strengthen human rights and environmental due diligence requirements of companies in global cocoa supply chains.

December 2019

EU Member States release their official reaction to the Commission’s Communication on stepping up EU action to protect and restore the world’s forests, requesting the Commission to “expeditiously” assess regulatory measures to “reduce the EU consumption footprint on land”.  

Who’s involved?

We work with the VOICE Network, the network of civil society organisations working on cocoa, Centre for Environment and Development (CED) in Cameroon and Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) in Vietnam.

In Brazil we work with civil society organisations such as ImazonAmazon Watch and Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB).

The EU should only import timber and agricultural products that are produced legally, sustainably and in countries that respect communities’ rights to their land.

Learn about the products that destroy forests.

Find out how agriculture is responsible for about 70 per cent of all deforestation:

Soy Beef Cocoa Palm Oil

Read our latest blog on cocoa

Find out how the EU can ensure chocolate is free of deforestation and child labour:

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Nicole Polsterer

Nicole Polsterer

Sustainable Consumption and Production Campaigner

Indra Van Gisbergen

Indra Van Gisbergen

Forest and Consumption Campaigner

Julia Christian

Julia Christian

Cocoa and Forests Campaigner

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