Over the past two decades, the European Union (EU) has been the world’s largest driver of tropical deforestation. Consumption of agricultural commodities in particular has given the EU a huge and largely unacknowledged footprint in the rainforests. Millions of tonnes of soy, beef, palm oil, sugar, cocoa and much more arrive at European ports with a hidden cargo of ‘embodied deforestation’. Thousands of products in European supermarkets are similarly tainted. Much of this produce is illegally produced on previously forested land: a result of forged and bogus permits, breaches of land laws and a range of other environmental and human rights offences. In 20 years, products for the EU have caused the deforestation of an area of the tropics the size of Portugal.
If the EU and its corporations are to fulfil recent pledges to end their contribution to global deforestation – and meet the promise of the new EU President Jean-Claude Juncker to ‘serve as a model for others’ – this cannot continue. The EU must change its own rules for trade, investment, finance, climate and consumption, and provide the legislative and regulatory support necessary both for forward-looking companies to fulfil their promises and for communities to see their land rights recognised. Only then can Europe and its businesses end their addiction to food crops and other agricultural commodities that wreck the rainforests. Only then can they eliminate Europe’s ‘foodprint’.
This report is a synthesis of 11 reports commissioned by Fern, assessing the impacts of EU policies on forests and people. Together, they form a set of recommendations for the EU to tackle deforestation and respect rights.