UK’s overseas land footprint increases as demand for commodities rises

UK demand for commodities like palm oil, soya and cocoa is increasing the threat of extinction of 2,800 species, according to research by WWF and RSPB. 

The campaigners identified a 15% growth in the UK’s “land footprint” overseas, compared to a previous study in 2011-15. The expansion is linked to the imports of seven key agricultural and forest commodities.

RSPB and WWF called on the government to remove deforestation from supply chains and ensure that trade deals in the aftermath of Covid-19 do not contribute to habitat destruction and climate change.

Their data shows 28% of the UK’s total overseas land footprint is still linked to countries at high or very high risk of deforestation, destruction of other natural ecosystems and human rights abuses. These include Brazil, Indonesia and the Ivory Coast.

The majority of all palm oil (89%), soya (65%) and cocoa (63%) imported to the UK comes from countries with high deforestation rates.

“We can only truly improve UK environmental standards if we stop importing food that causes deforestation elsewhere,” said WWF chief executive Tanya Steele. She called for a legal duty on companies to cut deforestation activities out of their supply chains."

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