The European Commission (EC) has launched an assessment of possible regulatory measures to minimise the impact of EU consumption on deforestation.
Regulatory measures are being considered after the EC adopted a Communication to address supply and demand issues causing deforestation and the degradation of the world’s forests.
However, the WWF said the move did not go far enough and it called for a ban on products linked to deforestation entering the EU.
As part of the Communication, the EC set out priorities to enhance international cooperation on reducing deforestation and to promote sustainable finance, better use of land and resources, sustainable job creation and supply chain management.
It also aims to reduce the EU’s consumption footprint and to encourage the consumption of products from deforestation-free supply chains.
The EC said it was acting in response to the continued widespread destruction of the world's forests. It estimates an area of 1.3m sq km had been lost to deforestation between 1990 and 2016.
“The main drivers of this deforestation are demand for food, feed, biofuel, timber and other commodities,” it said.
First vice president Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said: “We will not meet our climate targets without protecting the world's forests. The EU does not host the world's major primary forests on its territory, but our actions as individuals and our policy choices have a major impact.
“Today we send an important signal to our citizens and to our partners around the world that the EU is prepared to play a leadership role in this area in the next five years, and beyond.”
WWF called for “powerful legislation” to ensure “forest and ecosystem risk commodities being placed on the EU market are sustainably produced and not linked to deforestation, ecosystem conversion, or violation of human rights”.
Anke Schulmeister, senior forest policy officer at WWF’s European Policy Office, said: “Deforestation and forest degradation are happening at breakneck speed. It's clear that the EU needs to radically rethink the way it consumes. Today's Communication is a step in the right direction.
“The new European Commission must now get the job done. We need powerful legislation to ensure that no product linked to deforestation or ecosystem destruction is allowed to enter the EU market, and we also need to support producer countries to address the challenges and drivers.”
☛ Want to stay up to date with the news? Sign up to our daily bulletin.