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New report explores the global environmental footprint and impacts of Welsh consumption

News Item 2023

Our recently published research (JNCC Report 743), undertaken on behalf of Welsh Government, aims to improve understanding of the global environmental footprint and impacts of commodities that are consumed in Wales, but that may be produced anywhere in the world.  This project forms part of our work to respond to the global biodiversity crisis and integrate the value of nature into decision making.

Understanding the global environmental footprint and impacts of commodities that are consumed by a country is key to addressing both the climate and nature emergencies. In Wales, Welsh Government are also keen to improve their knowledge of the global impacts of Welsh consumption to help meet the requirements set out in Wales’ Well-being of Future Generations Act. JNCC, working with partners at the Stockholm Environment Institute York, and the Global Footprint network, have therefore produced a variety of different metrics to help meet this aim, published in our latest report (JNCC Report 743: Understanding the Global Environmental Footprint and Impacts of Welsh Consumption).

The report highlights that the impacts of consumption are a broad and complex area to understand, and that it’s not possible for a single metric to tell you everything you need to know. Just as you wouldn’t expect your plumber to turn up with only one tool and think they could fix everything in your house with it, we need a variety of tools to answer different questions that can help us to solve different parts of the consumption impacts puzzle. For this reason, we didn’t only build on our previous work, by downscaling our Global Environmental Impacts of Consumption indicator (which was included as a component indicator within the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework) to provide data for Wales; we also worked with partners to provide a range of other metrics, such as the Ecological Footprint, the Material Footprint and waste metrics, alongside case studies investigating specific commodity supply chains. In addition, we produced an annex, to help users understand which tool is most useful in different situations.

Results from the project showed that, overall, Welsh consumption has a large footprint and significant environmental impacts globally, and if the entire world population lived like the citizens of Wales, humanity would require 2.08 Earths. Therefore, Wales would need to halve its footprint in order to be consuming at a level considered sustainable. However, the estimate for Wales is around half the estimate for the UK as a whole, and the situation does appear to be improving, with trends decreasing since 2004.

It is planned that some of the data from the report will feed into the national indicators for Wales’ Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The detailed understanding that the analyses in this report provide could also be used to help target action towards the sectors/commodities and production locations associated with the highest footprints and impacts, in order to continue reducing the associated impacts into the future.

Find out more in the report.


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