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Publication | 15 April 2021

Stepping Up: The Continuing Impact of EU Consumption on Nature Worldwide

Global Food and Nutrition Security

Around the world, forests and other natural ecosystems like grasslands, wetlands and savannahs continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate. This contributes to climate change and the loss of biodiversity and the vital services that nature provides. Key findings from the report: 

  • The EU is the second biggest importer of deforestation after China. In 2017, the EU was responsible for 16% of deforestation associated with international trade, totalling 203,000 hectares and 116 million tonnes of CO₂. The EU was surpassed by China (24%) but outranked India (9%), the United States (7%) and Japan (5%). 
  • Between 2005-2017, soy, palm oil and beef were the commodities with the largest embedded tropical deforestation imported into the EU, followed by wood products, cocoa and coffee. 
  • During this period, the largest EU economies – Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Poland – were responsible for 80% of the EU’s embedded deforestation through their use and consumption of forest-risk commodities.
  • EU demand for these commodities is also driving destruction in non-forest ecosystems, such as grasslands or wetlands. The report establishes clear links between EU consumption, particularly of soy and beef, and the conversion of grassland landscapes, such as the “deforestation hotspots” of the Cerrado in Brazil and the Chaco in Argentina and Paraguay.