Eu deforestation illustration

Research at the centre of EU deforestation proposals

​In its new proposal aimed at reducing tropical deforestation, the European Commission has wrongly left out certain goods which make a significant contribution. This is the view of the researchers behind some of the data on which the Commission based its proposal. The proposed legislation places demands on those who import and sell beef, coffee, cocoa, wood, palm oil and soybeans to the EU. But rubber and maize should also be on the list, according to Martin Persson and Florence Pendrill at Chalmers University of Technology.​
Previous research from Chalmers has shown that the EU has a great responsibility for tropical deforestation. EU imports of products such as palm oil and soy cause around 200,000 hectares of tropical deforestation annually. Now, the European Commission is proposing ambitious legislation to halt the EU's contribution to deforestation.

“In order to determine which products are to be covered by the legislation, the Commission has used our data on how EU imports of agricultural products contribute to deforestation. The only problem is that they have used our data incorrectly and therefore excluded maize and rubber, despite the fact that those products also contribute significantly to deforestation,” explains Martin Persson, who together with colleague Florence Pendrill works at the Division of Physical Resource Theory at Chalmers.

The Commission has concluded that restrictions on rubber and maize would entail high costs while achieving a relatively small effect on deforestation, compared to the other six products on the list. But this conclusion is built on a flawed comparison – the Chalmers data on deforestation only concerns EU imports of unprocessed natural rubber, but in their calculations of the costs, the Commission have also included processed, recycled, and synthetic rubber, which then yields a  misleading cost-effectiveness ratio.

In addition, import data from the period 2008–2017 has been used, while the data relating to deforestation come from a much shorter period, 2015–2019.

“When we correct the calculations and instead compare the value of the import flows that correspond to the goods included in our deforestation analysis – during the same time period – there is no longer any significant difference between the different goods, and therefore we see no reason for the legislation to exclude rubber and maize,” says Martin Persson.

To address this oversight, Martin Persson, Florence Pendrill and his colleague Thomas Kastner at Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center wrote a policy brief in which they addressed the miscalculations.  

Text: Christian Löwhagen
Photo: Matt Zimmerman. Portraits: Anna-Lena Lundqvist/Chalmers


​New Focali policy brief: Flawed numbers underpin recommendations to exclude commodities from EU deforestation legislation  

Previous articles about Martin and Florence’s research at

Page manager Published: Wed 05 Jan 2022.