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Unsustainable UK Eating Habits Fuelling Global Deforestation, MPs Warn

The UK’s consumption of commodities including soy, cocoa, palm oil, beef and leather is unsustainable and is leading to rampant deforestation across the globe, MPs have warned.

According to the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), the intensity of UK consumption on the world’s forests – or its footprint per tonne of product consumed – is higher than that of China.

It called on ministers to develop a ‘Global Footprint’ indicator that would demonstrate the impact that the public’s consumption patterns had on global deforestation. But it also said that such a measure would only be meaningful if sufficient monitoring and reporting is embedded for forest risks, which requires working with international partners to improve oversight.

Forests host roughly 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people and support vital ecosystems that prop up local economies. Deforestation threatens irreplaceable biodiverse habitats and contributes 11 per cent of global carbon emissions.

As part of the Environment Act, the government has committed to require forest-based commodities to be certified as ‘sustainable’ if they are to be sold into UK markets. At COP28 it announced that the first four of these commodities are to be cattle products (other than dairy), cocoa, palm oil and soy.

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But the EAC said it was “concerned” over the seeming “lack of urgency” about the implementation of this regime, given global commitments to halt and reverse current deforestation trends by 2030.

Despite pledges by world leaders to halt deforestation, around 6.6 million hectares of forest were lost globally in 2022 – an increase of 4 per cent compared with 2021, according to an assessment by a coalition of environmental organisations.

The government should also bring other forest-risk commodities, such as maize, rubber and coffee, into the certification regime as soon as possible to be “sustainable,” the EAC said, while recommending that the existing legislative framework is strengthened to prohibit financial sector businesses from trading or using commodities linked to deforestation.

Philip Dunne MP, EAC chair, said: “UK consumption is having an unsustainable impact on the planet at the current rate. UK markets must not be flooded with products that threaten the world’s forests, the people whose livelihoods rely on them and the precious ecosystems that call them home.

“Yet despite the recent commitment before and at COP28 to invest more in reforestation measures and the Amazon Fund to help halt the speed of global deforestation, the UK needs to take tangible steps to turn the dial at home.

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“The government’s ambition and stated commitment at COP26 to halt deforestation by 2030 was very welcome, but it is not on track now.”

Source: E&T

aerial-view-of-deforestation-rainforest-being-removed-to-make-way-for-palm-oil- - Credit: iStock

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