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Deforestation fronts

An area twice the size of the UK lost to deforestation in a decade
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Deforestation in the Amazon

A total of 43 million hectares – an area twice the size of the UK – has been lost to deforestation in just over a decade, a new WWF report reveals.

The most recent data links 10% of global deforestation to EU demand for products like beef, soy for animal feed, leather, coffee, cocoa, rubber and palm oil. 

‘Deforestation fronts: Drivers and responses in a changing world’ analysed 24 ‘deforestation fronts’, or hotspots, across 29 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

It found that more than 43 million hectares of forest were lost in these areas over a 13-year period.

The report found that deforestation was taking place at the fastest rates in the following nine locations: the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado, the Bolivian Amazon, Paraguay, Argentina, Madagascar, and Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Land cleared for soy

A large proportion of the EU’s soy imports come from the Brazilian Cerrado, home to 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

Land there has been rapidly cleared for cattle and soy production, resulting in the loss of a third (32.8%) of its forest area between 2004 and 2017.

The EU remains the second-largest market for Brazilian soy after China, and EU soy imports are more likely to be tainted by deforestation.

WWF is calling for Covid-19 and its negative impacts across the globe to serve as a trigger for greater action to safeguard the world’s forests and other natural ecosystems.

At the EU level, WWF is advocating for a strong new EU law to stop products linked with deforestation and nature destruction from entering European markets.

‘Rampant deforestation in the tropics and subtropics may seem a world away, but Europe’s rising demand for products like beef, soy, cocoa and palm oil is adding fuel to the fire. The EU can and must stop being part of the problem.

‘Right now, the European Commission is drafting a proposal for an EU deforestation law. We – together with more than one million citizens who have raised their voice, and 160+ environmental groups – will be there every step of the way to ensure that such a law is strong, ambitious, and ensures the EU plays its part in protecting the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands.’

Senior forest policy officer at WWF’s European Policy Office

Deforestation and EU imports

According to the report, commercial agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation globally, particularly large-scale agriculture, with forested areas cleared to create space for livestock and to grow crops.

According to the transparency initiative Trase, the EU had the highest exposure to deforestation embodied in imports of any consumer region, at nearly 300,000ha per year from 2005 to 2013. 

In addition to driving habitat and biodiversity loss, deforestation and conversion is fuelling climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), deforestation and peatland degradation contribute most of the 13% of total human-caused CO2 emissions attributed to agriculture, forestry and other land uses.

‘Stronger efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation must be part of the solution to the global climate change crisis.

‘The agriculture, forestry and land-use sectors account for about a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions, so by tackling forest loss, managing forests more sustainably and shifting to more sustainable food systems, we can cut down our emissions. There’s no alternative if we want to achieve our global climate goals.’

WWF Forest Practice lead scientist

A law to stop deforestation

The Deforestation Fronts report urges citizens everywhere to pay their part in combating deforestation by protecting nature where they live, and avoiding products linked to deforestation such as certain meat, soy and palm oil products.

However, in Europe, consumers currently have no way of knowing whether their shopping has contributed to deforestation.

Through the #Together4Forests campaign, more than one million people have called for a new, ambitious EU law to keep products linked to deforestation and the destruction of natural habitats off the European market.

The law would also ensure the production of these commodities does not lead to human rights violations, including the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. They also called for the law to apply to the finance sector.

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