Trading Forests: Quantifying the Contribution of Global Commodity Markets to Emissions from Tropical Deforestation

60 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2015

See all articles by Martin Persson

Martin Persson

Chalmers University of Technology

Sabine Henders

Linkoping University

Thomas Kastner

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt

Date Written: October 22, 2014


This paper aims to improve our understanding of how and where global supply-chains link consumers of agricultural and forest commodities across the world to forest destruction in tropical countries. A better understanding of these linkages can help inform and support the design of demand-side interventions to reduce tropical deforestation. To that end, we map the link between deforestation for four commodities (beef, soybeans, palm oil, and wood products) in eight case countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea) to consumption, through international trade. Although few, the studied countries comprise a large share of the internationally traded volumes of the analyzed commodities: 83% of beef and 99% of soybean exports from Latin America, 97% of global palm oil exports, and roughly half of (official) tropical wood products trade. The analysis covers the period 2000-2009. We find that roughly a third of tropical deforestation and associated carbon emissions (3.9 Mha and 1.7 GtCO2) in 2009 can be attributed to our four case commodities in our eight case countries. On average a third of analyzed deforestation was embodied in agricultural exports, mainly to the EU and China. However, in all countries but Bolivia and Brazil, export markets are dominant drivers of forest clearing for our case commodities. If one excludes Brazilian beef on average 57% of deforestation attributed to our case commodities was embodied in exports. The share of emissions that was embodied in exported commodities increased between 2000 and 2009 for every country in our study except Bolivia and Malaysia.

Keywords: Climate change, Forests, REDD , Commodities, Commodity supply chains, Energy, Food, Agriculture

JEL Classification: Q23, Q54, L73, Q02, Q17

Suggested Citation

Persson, Martin and Henders, Sabine and Kastner, Thomas, Trading Forests: Quantifying the Contribution of Global Commodity Markets to Emissions from Tropical Deforestation (October 22, 2014). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 384, Available at SSRN: or

Martin Persson (Contact Author)

Chalmers University of Technology ( email )

SE-412 96 Goteborg

Sabine Henders

Linkoping University ( email )

Överstegatan 30
Linkoping, 581 83

Thomas Kastner

Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt ( email )

Universitätsstrasse 65-67
Klagenfurt, Corinthia A-9020

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