Europe’s overloaded land is driving forest destruction and climate breakdown

(EurActiv, 27 Sep 2019) Europe’s hunger for land is driving deforestation around the world, and makes the EU complicit in the Amazon fires. To save the Amazon and fight climate breakdown, EU farming policy has to change, writes Marco Contiero.

Marco Contiero is Greenpeace EU’s agriculture policy director.

People around the world have been shocked by the images of pristine Amazon rainforest in flames, and the dire warnings from scientists of the severe consequences that this destruction has – for local biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples and the global climate. All over the world, young people are taking to the streets, asking for immediate political action to avoid the worst effects of climate breakdown. Many are demanding protection for the world’s forests, our best line of defence against climate chaos, and are asking our society to stop gorging itself on meat and dairy.

Because they know: these fires and their impacts are not natural disasters, they are very much man-made – forests in South America are purposefully cleared to make way for cattle farms, or to grow animal feed. More shockingly perhaps, although others poured the petrol and lit the matches, Europe shares the responsibility for these forest fires.

Overloaded land in Europe

The EU produces and consumes much more meat and dairy than its own farmland can safely support. We’ve seen the direct impact of this at home, as Europe’s countryside is starting to drown in manure.

The coast of Brittany, in France, is coated in toxic algae, boosted by manure run-off from pig, poultry and dairy farms. Last year, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that Germany breached EU law by allowing manure runoff from farms to pollute water. All in all, nitrogen pollution like this costs the EU between €70 and €320 billion per year.

By over-producing and over-consuming animal products, Europe is not only overloading the land within its borders, but also putting pressure on land around the world.

External link

EurActiv, 27 Sep 2019: Europe’s overloaded land is driving forest destruction and climate breakdown