Trading deforestation—why the legality of forest-risk commodities is insufficient

Related GLP Member: Tiago Reis, Gabriela Russo Lopes, Chris West


Consumer countries and blocs, including the UK and the EU, are defining legal measures to tackle deforestation linked to commodity imports, potentially requiring imported goods to comply with the relevant producer countries' land-use laws. Nonetheless, this measure is insufficient to address global deforestation. Using Brazil's example of a key exporter of forest-risk commodities, here we show that it has ∼3.25 Mha of natural habitat (storing ∼152.8 million tons of potential CO2 emissions) at a high risk of legal deforestation until 2025. Additionally, the country's legal framework is going through modifications to legalize agricultural production in illegally deforested areas. What was illegal may become legal shortly. Hence, a legality criterion adopted by consumer countries is insufficient to protect forests and other ecosystems and may worsen deforestation and conversion risks by incentivizing the weakening of social-environmental protection by producer countries.