Soy, beef, coffee: in order for customers to be able to buy such products in European supermarkets, they have to be in other regions of the world forests give way. For EU imports, tropical forests four times the size of Lake Constance were cleared on average each year. In 2017, 16 percent of trade-related deforestation of tropical forests worldwide was accounted for by EU imports, according to a report presented on Wednesday by the Environmental organization WWF for the years 2005 to 2017.
The European Union is behind China (24 percent) and ahead of India (nine percent) and the United States (seven percent) worldwide in second place in this »world rankings«. Within the EU stands Germany at the top of the list.
According to the report, the largest causes of deforestation by EU imports were soy (around 31 percent of the cleared area) and palm oil (around 24 percent), for whose cultivation or production mainly forests in South America and Southeast Asia had to give way. Beef, wood products, cocoa and coffee followed.
Among the EU countries, Germany is responsible for most of the deforestation through imports: on average, 43.700 hectares of forest were cleared each year - an area about half the size of Berlin. In terms of inhabitants, however, Germany is roughly in line with the EU average. Most of the trees per inhabitant were felled for imports into the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark.
According to the report, the clearing is not only noticeable in ecosystems far away from Europe, but also affects the global climate. The EU indirectly caused 2017 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions through imported deforestation in 116, according to the WWF report. That corresponds to more than a quarter of EU emissions from agriculture in the same year. Such indirect emissions would not be included in the greenhouse gas emissions statistics.
However, the report also shows that the EU reduced forest destruction caused by imports by 2005 percent between 2017 and 40. In 2005 the EU share was still 31 percent worldwide, until 2013 Europe was number one in the »world rankings of forest destroyers«, as the WWF put it in the report. In some cases, voluntary commitments by companies and governments would have achieved something. Ultimately, however, they were not successful. Because: The declared EU target of stopping deforestation by 2020 has not been achieved.