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50m hectares of forest destroyed for commodities in 10 years – Greenpeace

An area of forest twice the size of the UK will have gone between 2010-2020 despite pledges by global brands to end deforestation, campaigners say.

Forest being cleared for palm oil plantation in Papua, Indonesia (Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace/PA)
Forest being cleared for palm oil plantation in Papua, Indonesia (Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace/PA)

An area of forest twice the size of the UK is set to have been destroyed for products such as palm oil and soy in a decade, Greenpeace claims.

In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, which includes major global brands, committed to net-zero deforestation by 2020 through “sustainable” sourcing of key commodities including soy, palm oil, paper and pulp, and cattle.

But a report from Greenpeace suggests that at least 50 million hectares (124 million acres) of forests across the world will have been lost in the decade to 2020 as a result of growing production and consumption of agricultural commodities.

Clearing forests, around 80% of which is the result of agricultural production, releases greenhouse gas emissions which contribute to climate change and destroys important habitat, threatening species with extinction.

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Orangutans are among the wildlife threatened by habitat loss (Markus Mauthe/Greenpeace/PA)

The environmental group accused the world’s largest consumer brands of failing to meet their commitments.

Greenpeace says it wrote to more than 50 companies early in 2019 asking them to demonstrate progress towards deforestation by disclosing their commodity suppliers.

Only a handful replied and all of those that did disclose the information source products from traders or producers involved in forest destruction and none could demonstrate meaningful action to end deforestation, the campaigners said.

The report said that since 2010, the area planted with soy in Brazil has increased by 45% and Indonesian palm oil production is up 75%.

It warns global meat consumption is set to rise by 76% by 2050, while soy production is forecast to increase by nearly 45% and palm oil by 60%.

Meat and dairy production is a big driver of forest destruction as trees are cleared for grazing land and to grow crops such as soy which are used in industrial feed.

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Areas of Brazil’s Cerrado have been deforested for soy production (Marizilda Cruppe/Greenpeace/PA)

But Greenpeace said none of the companies it contacted included animal feed in their deforestation reporting.

Anna Jones, global campaign lead for forests at Greenpeace UK, said: “These companies are destroying our children’s future by driving us towards climate and ecological collapse.

“They’ve wasted a decade on half-measures and in that time vast areas of the natural world have been destroyed.

“They should be in crisis talks right now, but they’re still trying to grow demand for products that will drive forest destruction even further.”

She added: “Our message to companies is simple: evolve your business to prevent climate and ecological breakdown.”

The report called for huge changes to the way forests are managed and commodities are produced, dramatic reductions in meat and dairy consumption and the phasing out of crops grown for biofuels and bioplastics.

The onus is on brands that use commodities such as beef, palm oil and soy to demonstrate their supply chains are free from deforestation, and to slash their use of meat and dairy in favour of healthy and affordable plant-based foods, Greenpeace argues.

The report is published as chief executives and senior managers of global brands gather in Vancouver, Canada, for the Consumer Goods Forum global summit.

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