Forest land of the size of England is lost each year across the world. This matters: deforestation contributes more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But forest risk commodities, such as palm oil, timber and soy contribute US$135bn in export trade each year. So how do we reconcile economic interests, trade and consumption with global commitments on climate change and environment conservation?
With more than 1.6 billion people depending on forests for their livelihoods, the sustainable development dilemma is brought into sharp focus.
Demand for palm oil is sky-rocketing. This is causing large-scale deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, the two biggest palm oil producers, despite government pledges to tackle the challenge and many corporate pledges to achieve ‘zero deforestation’.
As the world’s second-largest importer of palm oil, Europe has a significant role to play in reducing deforestation. But as with other Sustainable Development Goals, the aim is to achieve a reasonable and responsible trade-off between making the world greener, protecting people’s incomes and sustaining economic growth.
- Does Europe need to go beyond existing voluntary industry commitments and certifications to make sure imported commodities are deforestation free?
- Will it use its muscles in the areas of trade, regulation and standards to encourage palm oil producers to use sustainable practices?
- How do we reconcile economic development in producing countries with broader sustainability concerns?
- As consumers, what can we do to prevent deforestation?
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