Wednesday 15 November, 2023, London - UK consumption of crops such as oil palm and soy has been linked to the estimated regional loss of 71 species, according to new figures for 2021 released by the UK Government, with some species at risk of extinction worldwide. The new government data suggests that the pressure imposed on species was higher in 2021 than any year since 2015.  

Overall, when including additional commodities such as beef and timber, the UK was linked to the destruction of more than 30,650 hectares of forest globally in 2021 alone – an area almost three times the size of the city of Manchester.  

UK consumption of these products was also found to be responsible for an estimated six million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

The new statistics come just days after research by Trase for Global Witness showed that UK imports of seven commodities, including palm oil and beef, were linked to an area of tropical deforestation almost twice the size of Paris in the two years since the UK Environment Act was signed in November 2021.  

Global Witness is now urging the newly appointed Environment Minister, Steve Barclay MP, to publish the list of commodities covered by the Environment Act, which prohibits the UK importing the specified commodities linked to illegal deforestation overseas.

Commenting on the new figures, Alexandria Reid, Senior Global Policy Advisor at Global Witness said: “The UK government has legislation ready that could help stop forest destruction, but ministers have been missing in action since the Glasgow climate conference and are currently heading to the UAE empty handed too.

“The UK simply should not be importing food that is driving the destruction of the world’s climate-critical forests. The UK government must urgently act to prevent companies from selling this unsustainable food; it can and must implement the Environment Act now. Steve Barclay needs to make this a top priority, or else squander the last of the significant credibility the UK earned by brokering the global agreement to end deforestation by 2030.”