Consumption by the European Union threatens to devastate carbon-rich ecosystems that aren’t included in measures to address climate change and biodiversity loss outside the region’s borders, according to the WWF.
More than half of South America’s Cerrado, the world’s most biodiverse savannah, has been cleared largely as a result of soy and beef production, with the E.U. responsible for 19% of the region’s beef exports. Other ecosystems such as the Argentine Chaco, Sumatra’s peatland and the Cuvette Centrale in Democratic Republic of Congo similarly have been affected by the bloc’s demand for palm oil, timber and other commodities, the group said in a report released Tuesday.
E.U. measure proposed last year is designed to curb the slashing of woodland spurred by the bloc’s consumption. National authorities will have to verify that products are free from deforestation and require companies to provide the coordinates. Soy, peanut oil, wood and cocoa are all covered. Some derived products, such as chocolate, leather, or furniture, may also be included.
E.U. may be focusing too heavily on areas that are primarily forested. Inadvertently, producers could be incentivised to move their operations to more valuable ecosystems.
WWF and environmentalists want the E.U. The law should include ecosystems such as savannahs and grasslands, peatlands, and wetlands. According to the WWF, Europe was the second largest importer after China of deforestation products and associated emissions.
“The European Commission’s wait-and-see attitude is an inadequate response to the breakneck speed at which these ecosystems are being destroyed,” said Anke Schulmeister-Oldenhove, senior forest policy officer at WWF’s European Policy Office. “In times of climate emergency and accelerating loss of species, the E.U. cannot turn a blind eye to the loss of natural ecosystems beyond forests.”
At the COP26 climate change talks in Glasgow, Scotland, last year, 100 countries representing 85% of the world’s forests committed to halt and reverse the loss of woodland and land degradation by 2030. The U.K. estimates that every minute a large area of forest is lost in the world, equivalent to 27 soccer fields.