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Find out about the latest updates to the Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption (GEIC) indicator

By Nicki du Plessis (Natural Capital Evidence Specialist), Maddie Harris (Senior Evidence Specialist) and Ellie Wood (Ecosystems Evidence Specialist)

Global Impacts

Our latest blog post is from Nicki du Plessis, Maddie Harris, and Ellie Wood, from our Ecosystems Analysis Team. In this post, they provide an overview of the noteworthy improvements to the Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption (GEIC) indicator, brought about by the most recent data update earlier this month.

On Tuesday 14 November 2023, the much-anticipated update of the Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption (GEIC) indicator took place. The GEIC indicator update was released as part of a broader suite of UK Biodiversity Indicator annual updates.

Why is this update significant?

The GEIC indicator isn't just for the statisticians; it's a powerful tool aimed at gauging biodiversity loss, water stress, deforestation, and an array of other environmental impacts entwined with consumption practices across the world. Since its inclusion as a component indicator under Target 16 of the Convention on Biological Diversity, the GEIC indicator has gained international traction. Component indicators are a list of optional indicators that together with the headline indicators cover the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). Although this is where the indicator has most influence, the tool is useful to anyone interested in understanding a country's/territory’s consumption impacts on the natural environment.

You can find out more in our YouTube video. 

Environmental indicators are crucial, providing insights into environmental trends, enabling informed decision-making and proactive measures to address emerging challenges. Regular updates enable improvements and the latest data to be incorporated into these indicators, ensuring that policies and strategies can remain relevant and adaptive in the ever-evolving landscape of environmental issues.

In other words, with this most recent update, the GEIC indicator can now do so much more.

What has changed?

More detailed coverage

One of the most significant improvements in the 2023 release is the increased resolution of consumption country/territory data. Unlike the 2022 version, which included only 44 consumption countries/territories (with other countries/territories grouped into larger rest-of-world regions), the latest release covers a whopping 141 countries/territories, representing 96.4% of the world's population. This higher resolution dataset allows for a more inclusive and representative snapshot of global consumption impacts.

More up-to-date data

While the 2022 release featured data up to 2018, the 2023 update provides data up to 2021. This improvement provides the most recent and relevant insights into countries’/territories’ consumption and production activities.

Improved deforestation impact metrics

Unlike the previous version, which focused solely on tropical forests, the 2023 release widens its lens to include estimates of deforestation impacts in forests worldwide. This enhancement allows for a more comprehensive understanding of the environmental consequences of consumption.

What do the data tell us?

Annual UK consumption of crop, cattle-related and timber commodities in 2021 was associated with an estimated 30,656 hectares of agriculture-driven deforestation worldwide (the equivalent of more than 57,000 football fields). The three commodities contributing most to this impact were 'cattle and buffalo meat (and co-products)', 'industrial roundwood’' and 'soya beans'.

Image 1 (Figure A4i). Area of deforestation associated with UK consumption annually.

In the same year, UK consumption of crop commodities was responsible for a predicted regional species loss of approximately 71 species (with the highest impacting commodities being wheat, rice, and maize).  

Image 2 (Figure A4ii). Predicted regional species loss associated with UK consumption annually.

In 2021, the UK was also responsible for an estimated 797.32 billion cubic metres of scarcity-weighted blue water use (with the highest impacting commodities being wheat, rice, and cotton).

For those eager to delve into specifics related to the UK, head over to the UK Biodiversity Indicators A4 webpage where you can explore headline results, dissect data implications, and track trends relevant to the UK. Additionally, be sure to also check out the full suite of UK Biodiversity Indicators 2023, comprising of updates to 17 other indicators.

To explore the results at a global level and look at a more detailed breakdown (such as the commodities contributing most to each impact) we invite you to visit the Commodity Footprints interactive dashboard. With the latest release, two sets of results are now available, each offering different geographic resolutions and time coverage.

Save the date for our upcoming webinars

So that we can all make more of the GEIC indicator updates, we're hosting three webinars in December tailored for different audiences. Please come along to the one that you feel best suits you.

Date and time Details Registration details

11 December
10.00 – 11.00 GMT/UTC

Technical introduction
Find out what the indicator can do, and about the methods and modelling underpinning it.
Please register via MS Teams
12 December
10.00 – 11.00 GMT/UTC

UK policy introduction
Find out what the indicator is, how to navigate the online dashboard and how to use the data as an evidence source for UK policymakers.

Please register via MS Teams
14 December
11.30 – 12.30 GMT/UTC

Global Biodiversity Framework introduction
The GEIC indicator is a component indicator against Target 16 of the GBF. Find out what it is, how to use it in national reporting, and why you might wish to do so.

Please register via MS Teams

The GEIC Indicator was developed by JNCC and SEI, supported by Defra, Trase and the GCRF Trade Hub.

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