Knowledge for better food systems

Impact of EU consumption on deforestation

This comprehensive European Commission (EC) study was launched in 2011 to assess the impact of EU consumption on forest loss at a global scale. The study assesses the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and provides a list of possible policy responses to create sustainable consumption.  

This comprehensive European Commission (EC) study was launched in 2011 to assess the impact of EU consumption on forest loss at a global scale. The study assesses the impact of EU consumption on deforestation and provides a list of possible policy responses to create sustainable consumption.  

One important contribution of the study is that it has developed a concept - ‘embodied deforestation’ - which refers to the deforestation associated with the production of a good or commodity.  This good or commodity may be consumed in the country of origin or traded elsewhere. It allows observers to link deforestation in producer countries/regions with the associated consumption of goods in consumer countries/regions.

The study was carried out by a consortium of institutes, led by Vito, and including IIASA, Cicero, K.U. Leuven and IUCN-Netherlands. The main results (covering the period 1990-2008) are described by the European commission as the following:

  • The majority of crops and livestock products associated with deforestation in the countries of origin are consumed at local or regional level, and are not traded internationally. In quantitative terms, 33% of crops and 8% of livestock products (with embodied deforestation) are traded outside the countries or regions of production;
  • Of the portion which is traded internationally, the EU 27 imported and consumed 36% of crops and livestock products associated with deforestation in the countries of origin. This is equivalent to the import and consumption in the EU of a deforested land area of 9 million ha over the period 1990-2008;
  • If we refer to the global consumption of agricultural and livestock commodities with embodied deforestation, i.e. including also domestic and regional consumption, the impact of EU consumption is 7%. This figure can increase up to 10% if all finally processed products and all consumption sectors are added on (i.e. textile, service sectors, etc.);
  • Consumption of oil crops - such as soy and palm oil - and their derived processed goods, as well as meat consumption play a major role in the impact of EU consumption on global deforestation.

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