Deforestation is the permanent conversion of forest land into other land-uses.

The main drivers of worldwide deforestation are agricultural expansion, logging, expansion of urban areas, and natural or human-induced disasters (e.g. wildfire).

Did you know? – In 2016 agricultural expansion for the production of commodities (e.g. soy, beef, palm oil, coffee, cocoa) caused almost 80% of all deforestation, while mining and urbanisation/infrastructure were responsible for less than 10% each.

Did you know? - In 2012, the EU imported an estimated €6 billion of commodities such as soy, beef, leather and palm oil, which were grown on land illegally cleared of forests. This makes the EU one of the world’s biggest importers of agricultural products resulting from illegal deforestation.

Recognising the scale of the problem, the EU has committed to halt deforestation by 2020, and commissioned a feasibility study. On 16th March 2018, the study was finally published.

Multiple options to tackle one vast problem

The study looks at the impact of overall EU consumption on global deforestation. It also provides a general consideration of relevant policy areas where possible actions could be pursued to address this impact and advance work towards EU sustainable consumption.

It offers three possible options:

  • Publish a new Communication on Deforestation without requiring any new measures
  • Introduce new, non-legislative actions as part of an Action Plan
  • Introduce new legislative action including placing mandatory due diligence on companies importing and consuming forest risk commodities

The study states that the third option “should have the greatest impact on the objective while at the same time requiring the largest effort and time on the part of the EU”.

What is the EU doing?

We are yet to see whether the European Commission will follow up this study with concrete policy proposals.

The EU can make a huge difference by regulating the demand side, but it will require political will and policy coherence. It must now, following publication of this feasibility study, create regulation to stop EU imports of agricultural products that cause deforestation and negative social impacts.

What is the UK doing?

In January this year, the Prime Minister gave the first major speech on the environment for 17 years, in which the Government has vowed to leave the environment in a better condition than inherited.

The UK government has announced a 25-year plan to improve the environment. This plan gives a sense of longevity and ambition on both a domestic and global front.

Beccy Speight, Chief Executive, Woodland Trust said: “The Woodland Trust particularly welcomes the restated commitment in the 25-year plan to increase protection for ancient woodland”

“The ever increasing volume of inappropriately-placed development threats, including those posed by government-funded projects such as HS2, or the proposed A27 bypass, makes this kind of change crucial.

“In the post-Brexit world, the need for a new Environment Act will be absolutely necessary.”

We will let you have further updates as policy develops.

If you would like advice in relation to any of these issues, please call one of our property or agricultural solicitors on 0161 941 4000 or emailing

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