Europe ‘dangerously behind’ on deforestation goals

By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • European companies aren’t doing enough to slow deforestation as they’re buying too much of commodities such as soybeans and palm oil from unsustainable sources, according to sustainable trade initiative IDH.

As forests shrink to produce timber and make space for crops like soy, cocoa and palm oil, that’s leaving fewer trees to absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

While European business has made some progress in tackling deforestation, it’s behind on targets for purchasing sustainably grown commodities, Netherlands-based IDH said in a report.

Forest loss is continuing at an “alarming rate”, said Daan Wensing, a director at IDH. “Europe is dangerously behind when it comes to meeting its responsible sourcing and no-deforestation pledges.”

The European Union (EU) wants to lead the battle against global warming, and has pushed for restrictions on the use of palm oil on concerns its production caused deforestation and aggravated climate change.

But producing nations said the claims are misleading and detrimental to countries that depend on the industry. For example, palm oil exports fetched Indonesia US$17.8 billion (RM74.09 billion) last year and the industry contributes about 3.5% of its GDP.

Some findings in the IDH report:
• Only 22% of soy bought by Europe’s food industry in 2017 was compliant with responsible sourcing guidelines.
• Less than a third of the EU’s tropical timber imports were verified as sustainable.
• Palm oil purchases have fared better — 74% of imports were sustainable — but are still likely to miss a 100% sustainable target by 2020.
• Globally, 30% of cocoa is classed as sustainable.

The share of the world’s land covered by forest has fallen steadily from 31.6% in 1990 to 30.7% in 2017, according to World Bank data. Deforestation also impacts biodiversity by destroying animals’ habitats.

Some countries are much better than others at buying sustainably produced commodities. The Netherlands sourced 83% of its soy in line with European feed manufacturers’ guidelines, while Italy, Portugal and Spain bought almost none. Nearly all of France’s palm oil purchases are certified sustainable, compared to less than half for Italy and Spain.

In 2010, companies in the Consumer Goods Forum said they’d work to eliminate deforestation through responsible sourcing of cattle, palm oil, pulp, paper and soy.

In a separate report released yesterday, Greenpeace said an area equal to the size of Spain will have been destroyed for commodity production between 2010 and 2020. — Bloomberg