Why did we take action?


Did you know that EU consumption is responsible for 10% of global forest destruction? The EU is also the second biggest importer of products and commodities that are fueling nature destruction around the world - the EU cannot ignore its responsibility! 

Through the #Together4Forests campaign, 1.2 million people and 160 NGOs demanded a strong, new EU law to protect the world’s forests and other ecosystems, and fed straight into the European Commission’s public consultation on deforestation in December 2020.

On 17 November 2021, the European Commission presented a proposal for an EU deforestation law. The proposal was not perfect, it had some flaws that needed to be ironed out, but it was a good start. Now the ball was in the court of the EU’s national governments and the European Parliament.

In June 2022, the EU Environment Ministers agreed on their position on the law, followed by the European Parliament’s position adopted in September 2022.
On 6 December 2022, the European Commission, European Parliament and the  Council of the EU reached a political agreement on the final text of the law. This historic deal will keep products linked to deforestation off the EU market!

The regulation is the first in the world to tackle global deforestation and will significantly reduce the EU’s footprint on nature. It is also a significant win of #Together4Forests campaign, which has brought together 220 NGOs to fight for a strong EU law against deforestation between 2020-2022.


  • Why should we care about forests?

    Forests are mysterious and beautiful worlds vital to our well-being. They provide oxygen, food, shelter, life and livelihoods. They shield us from climate change, drought and even pandemics. From the Indigenous Peoples and local communities who live in forests, to people in cities, we all depend on forests to provide us with clean air and water, and resources like wood and medicines.

    Forests are home to 80% of the world’s land-based species including birds, insects, amphibians and plant life. From tigers and jaguars to orangutans, rhinos and elephants - some of the world’s most iconic species also rely on forest habitats.

  • How much forest and nature are we losing?

    Since 1990, the world has lost 178 million hectares of forest. Annually, we lose an area of forest around the size of Greece. Moreover, recent data from Global Forest Watch shows a nearly 3% increase in the loss of primary forest – forest that has never been logged – in 2019 compared to 2018. 

    According to the FAO, “deforestation and forest degradation continue to take place at alarming rates, which contributes significantly to the ongoing loss of biodiversity.” Most of this forest loss is driven by the expansion of commercial cropland, pastures, and tree plantations.

    We are also losing savannahs, grasslands, peatlands and wetlands. Just like forests, these natural habitats are rich in plant, bird, amphibian and animal life. They can also store large amounts of carbon and help us fight climate change. But they too are being destroyed. For example, the Brazilian Cerrado, the most biodiverse savannah in the world, is being destroyed at twice the rate of the Amazon. This has disastrous consequences for biodiversity, climate and our survival. It is vital for an EU law to protect these areas too - a law on forests alone could simply shift the problem of ecosystem destruction in forests to these areas.

    Unfortunately, the agreed EU law fails to protect these areas from the start, thereby running the risk of simply shifting the problem of ecosystem destruction in forests to savannahs and other natural ecosystems. The scope of the law must be extended in the first review, scheduled 12 months after its entry into force, to other equally important natural ecosystems beyond forests.

  • How is the EU driving deforestation outside its borders?

    Agriculture is the main driver of deforestation, accounting for 80% of deforestation around the world. The EU’s demand for imported agricultural products has been a major contributor to tropical deforestation. In particular through imports of palm oil from South East Asia and soy, sugar and beef from Latin America. Coffee, cacao and rubber imports are also contributors to deforestation. Overall, the EU is responsible for around 10% of the global share of deforestation, and the EU is the world’s second-largest market for these forest-risk commodities after China. 

    The EU is also home to major financial institutions that invest in the harmful agribusinesses that turn a blind eye to ecosystem destruction. According to Global Witness’ investigations, from 2013-2019, EU-based financial institutions were among the main sources of funds to some of the world’s most harmful agribusinesses, directly or indirectly involved in deforestation in the Amazon, Congo Basin and Papua New Guinea.

    The failure to include the financial sector in the new EU law is paradoxical: On the one hand we will have rules ensuring that companies keep their supply chains free of deforestation, but on the other, financial institutions will continue to fund companies whose activities might be causing deforestation. This was a missed opportunity that we hope can be rectified as soon as possible.

  • What is a strong EU law?

    We campaigned for a law that stops the destruction of nature due to EU consumption of commodities like palm oil, soy, cocoa, beef, coffee and rubber. We had advocated for this law to also apply to financial institutions that operate in the EU and that are enabling forest and ecosystem destruction, which often go hand in hand with human rights violations, in particular the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

    The ecosystems that are affected by destructive agricultural practices to serve the EU market include forests, savannahs, grasslands and wetlands. Around the world, some of the most severely affected areas are the Amazon, the Cerrado and the Atlantic forest in Brazil; the Gran Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay; the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia and forests in West and Central Africa including Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. 

  • Is there a link between deforestation and pandemics?

    Shrinking forests are threatening our health because we are losing a natural barrier to the spread of diseases. Deforestation means wildlife relocates closer to humans, increasing disease transfer risk. Cutting down tropical forests also expands the habitats for mosquitoes which can carry diseases like malaria and dengue. In fact, land-use change, including deforestation and the modification of natural habitats, is held responsible for nearly half of newly emerging zoonoses – diseases that jump from animals to humans.

  • Why is fighting human rights violations essential to tackling deforestation?

    Around 1.6 billion people globally rely on forest resources for livelihoods and shelter, of those, around 300 million are Indigenous Peoples and local communities. But many people are losing their homes and their lives because of deforestation. These people have the knowledge to manage their forests wisely – they can be guardians of the forest, savannahs and grasslands.

    To be effective, the EU law must therefore include a requirement whereby products that are linked to international human rights - in particular the rights of Indigenous peoples and local communities to their land - shouldn't be allow onto the EU market. Unfortunately, EU lawmakers did not include the protection of internationally-recognised rights of Indigenous peoples clearly enough in the new law but chose to rely on existing national laws. However, national laws are not always sufficient to tackle land grabbing or protect land tenure rights. This was a missed opportunity to fully support and empower the people that are on the frontline against ecosystem destruction. 

    A new EU law is vital to reducing the EU’s nature destruction footprint. But, the EU must  also strengthen its cooperation with the countries that produce the goods the EU imports to tackle ecosystem destruction and the related human rights violations. Active engagement with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, governments and businesses to address the underlying challenges will help protect the last remaining pristine areas of nature – and the people that depend on them.