The food we eat, and other products we import, can have a massive environmental impact globally. The demand for products such as palm oil, soy and beef, can cause issues such as deforestation to meet the demand for land to grow them, water stress and release of pollutants.
Our experts have been investigating such global impacts in supply chains, and today we’ve released a report focussed on the impacts of commodity production, consumption and trade on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon storage. Being able to quantify impacts is important to create a case for action – if we don’t know how big the problem is, we can do little to solve it.
The report finds that 9–14% of total GHG emissions result from the land-use change linked to commodity production, highlighting the significance of this problem at a global scale. Contributing to this problem, we, as the UK, are responsible for 31 kha of deforestation per year as a result of the imported commodities we consume, which over ten years is equivalent to an area about the size of Cornwall.
The report also highlights a strong need for further research in this area. Whilst estimates could often be found linking commodity production to the area of deforestation, the effect that this has on GHG emissions was often not quantified. Understanding the impacts of specific commodities, or tracing effects through supply chains to specific consumption countries was also challenging. Improving access to such information will be a vital part of developing and targeting solutions where they are most needed.
Image: Palm oil plantation (Adam Jones, Kelowna, BC, Canada / CC BY-SA