Blog: Wales and global responsibility: Deforestation and us

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by Kevin Rahman-Daultrey, Size of Wales Education and Policy Manager

Did you know that tropical deforestation accounts for 20% of all global carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere? When you compare this to other big emitters, this is a shockingly high statistic. Take flying for example, which accounts for just 2.5% of global emissions.

The planet currently loses the equivalent of one and a half rugby pitches of forest every 2 seconds, with over 25 million hectares of forest being lost every year, or 13 times the size of Wales.

Unfortunately, in Wales we are contributing to the problem of overseas deforestation in places such as the Amazon and driving emissions. This deforestation is caused by a handful of everyday commodities and products that we all buy including:

  • Soy used to feed the animals we eat and rear here, along with animal products such as milk and eggs.
  • Palm oil which is used in 50% of packaged goods in supermarkets, such as chocolate, ready meals and even cleaning products.
  • Beef from South America. An area the size of the Brecon Beacons is needed each year overseas to graze cattle for Wales‘ beef imports alone. A large proportion of the cattle is reared in countries that are at high risk of deforestation.
  • Cocoa used to make chocolate also drives deforestation in parts of Africa and Wales’ levels of consumption requires an area the size of Wrexham to produce.
  • Other products such as timber, rubber and paper are also contributing to Wales’ overseas forest footprint.

Today Wales is using an area of land half its size to produce just these commodities and products. If you would like to read more about these statistics and the wider issue you can read the recently produced report by Size of Wales, RSPB Cymru and WWF Cymru ‘Wales and Global Responsibility’ Deforestation does not just drive climate change. When we lose forests, we lose the species that live in them. Tropical forests are home to over 50% of the land-based species on our planet, despite only covering around 8% of the planet’s surface.

Children around the world face being made homeless or having their villages destroyed just to make cheaper commodities in Wales and the rest of the Western world.

Upwards of 50 million people live in forests and their homes and lives are being threatened and lost by the agricultural expansion into forests. This particularly affects Indigenous Peoples who are guardians of our precious forests. Children around the world face being made homeless or having their villages destroyed just to make cheaper commodities in Wales and the rest of the Western world.

The good news is that we can all help to address this problem. Last November, Welsh Climate Change Minister Julie James made a commitment at COP26, the global UN conference on climate change, to work towards Wales becoming a deforestation-free nation. This was partly achieved through the work of Wales Youth Climate Ambassadors, a group of young Welsh people who are acting on climate change, from lobbying to government policymakers to running youth-facing campaigns.

Some of the ways you can reduce your deforestation foot-print 

You can also help at home by ensuring you are not buying goods that drive deforestation. By buying certified products and goods, and more locally produced products we can reduce our impact on the world’s forests. To do this, here is a handy guide to some certification schemes that reduce the risk of deforestation.

If you would like to learn more about this topic visit the Size of Wales website, where you will find a host of information on how you can help, as well as how to book a free education session for schools on tropical forests and deforestation.

This blog was originally featured in Children in Wales Magazine. We are grateful to them for allowing us to repost it.

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