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Tropical deforestation from UK consumption

News Item 2021

We have recently published a new report – JNCC Report No. 681: Towards indicators of the global environmental impacts of UK consumption: Embedded Deforestation – describing the methods and draft results for an indicator aiming to measure the overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption.

Draft results in the report suggest that the UK’s consumption of agricultural crops was responsible for the deforestation of an area more than twice the size of Paris in 2017, but that overall the UK’s footprint has reduced since 2005.

The report estimates that the tropical and subtropical deforestation embedded within UK consumption decreased by 42% between 2005 and 2017. However, the total remains high, with over 20,000 ha being deforested to meet the demands of UK consumption in 2017 alone. Over half of this impact came from just three commodities: palm oil, soybean and maize. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with this deforestation have also decreased at a similar rate, but in 2017 were still equivalent to over 2.6 million cars being driven for one year.

These results are currently draft. The report will now be put out to stakeholders for consultation to feed into a second phase of work, which aims to release final results as an experimental statistic following the project’s completion in August 2021. This second phase will refine the methods used in this study, and will expand results beyond agricultural crops, to include livestock and forestry products. Additional impact metrics, including biodiversity and water, will also be added. Results will be presented through an interactive dashboard, which will allow users to explore the detail more easily, and enable them to look up UK impacts associated with a specific commodity or taking place in a specific producing country.

It is anticipated that the final statistic will form an indicator which will feed into the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan’s Outcome Indicator Framework, for their 2022 reporting cycle. It is also expected to have many other use cases linked to identifying supply chain risks and understanding which actions would make the most difference to address the problem, such as highlighting which commodities should be the highest priorities to focus on.

To find out more about the work and the development of the indicator, read the full report. You can also find out more about the complexities and importance of sustainable production and consumption through The Linking Environment to Trade (LET) Guide.

Thanks to our contractors at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and collaborators at the GCRF Trade, Development & the Environment (TRADE) Hub.

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