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86 EU policy options for reducing imported deforestation

Image: Jonny Lew, Forest, Pexels, Pexels Licence

Table members Martin Persson and Simon Bager have co-authored this paper, which offers 86 policy options through which the European Union could address deforestation associated with imported commodities such as palm oil, soybeans and beef. The paper finds trade-offs between the political feasibility of each option and the potential impact: the policy options that are most politically feasible tend to have a weaker theory of change.

The paper proposes “policy mixing” as a means of resolving the tension between feasibility and impact, i.e. combining a number of policy options with varying costs and implications for affected stakeholders. The goal is to increase both stakeholder acceptance and overall impact. It also recommends working with key stakeholders to gradually expand the scope of policies over time.



Despite the importance of tropical forest conservation in achieving global sustainability goals and the key role of forest-risk commodity trade in driving deforestation, consumer country policy options for reducing imported deforestation have received limited scholarly attention. Drawing on gray literature and a European Commission public consultation, we identify 86 policy options for the European Union to address deforestation. We assess the political feasibility and map the “theory of change” (TOC)—the causal chain through which the policies address deforestation—for each of these policy options, identifying a trade-off between feasibility and potential impacts: information-based and cooperative policies, which dominate our sample, typically exhibit high feasibility, but mostly lack convincing TOCs, while more stringent regulatory and market-based policy options generally have lower feasibility. We propose three principles for overcoming the feasibility-impact dilemma: (1) build policies on proven TOCs, (2) use policy mixes, and (3) work with key stakeholders, supply chains, and regions.



Bager, S.L., Persson, U.M. and dos Reis, T.N., 2021. Eighty-six EU policy options for reducing imported deforestation. One Earth, 4(2), pp.289-306.


Read the full paper here. See also the Table explainer Soy: food, feed, and land use change.

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