One Earth, Volume 4, 19 February 2021,
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. Images of distressed orangutans in Indonesia and forest fires in Brazil have increased public awareness of deforestation across the globe. Still, deforestation continues more or less unabated, driven by demand for forest-risk commodities, such as palm, soy, cocoa, and beef. What can the European Union (EU) and other consumer regions do to address this problem? Here we present 86 policy options for the EU to address tropical deforestation, identified through a review of gray literature and EU stakeholder consultation responses. Analyzing these, we show that policy options that are politically feasible policies tend to have a weaker theory of change—the causal chain through which the policies address deforestation—setting up a trade-off between feasibility and impact. However, there are exceptions, such as mandatory due diligence, which show potential impact and appear politically feasible. Through policy mixing and working with key stakeholders, supply chains, and producer regions, these barriers can be overcome. Images of distressed orangutans in Indonesia and forest fires in Brazil have increased public awareness of deforestation. Still, deforestation continues unabated, driven by demand for forest-risk commodities, such as palm and soy. Here, we present 86 policy options for the EU to reduce imported deforestation. We identify a trade-off between policy feasibility and potential impact. Mixing different policies and working with key stakeholders, supply chains, and producer regions can help overcome this trade-off.