Britain has an obsession with timber, leather and beef from Brazil, according to wildlife charities, who claim it is ‘having a heavy impact’ on rainforest wildfires.
Brazil, home to two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, is one of the riskiest countries from which the UK imports key agricultural commodities, say the WWF and RSPB.
In a new report the WWF say fires are being set deliberately to make room for agriculture to feed growing demand from places like the UK.
The latest figures suggest that 2,248 fire outbreaks were detected in the Amazon biome for the month of June – the highest number for 13 years.
Brazil represents 13.9 per cent of the UK overseas land footprint, according to a new report, equal to about 800,000 hectares or five times the area of Greater London.
The WWF and RSPB have called on the UK government to introduce new laws and policies to take deforestation of natural habitats out of the supply chain.
Brazil, home to two-thirds of the Amazon rainforest, is one of the riskiest countries from which the UK imports key agricultural commodities, say the WWF and RSPB
Brazil is home to 464 globally threatened species including the giant anteater and the black-faced black spider monkey, both at risk from deforestation.
UK demand for soy, timber, pulp, paper, beef and leather is having a heavy impact on some of the world’s most nature-rich landscapes, the WWF study claimed.
The charity is also urging the government to ensure that post-Brexit trade deals won’t contribute to environmental destruction.
New data released today from WWF and RSPB details the impact of key commodities, with specific examples from biodiverse landscapes.
Mike Barrett, Executive Director of Science and Conservation at WWF-UK, said it was no coincidence fires have already sparked in Brazil this year.
He said it has happened in the areas that have suffered deforestation from commodities including soy.
‘These fires are not a natural occurrence in the Amazon – they are set deliberately to burn trees that have been illegally cut to clear the way for agriculture,’ he said.
‘But the cost is too high. The UK must take a stand against the destruction by bringing in new laws and policies to cut deforestation out of our supply chains. UK consumers should not be forced to unwittingly contribute to the Amazon burning.’
Martin Harper, Director of Global Conservation at RSPB, said communities in the UK are fiercely protective of local beauty spots and natural habitats.
‘Planning applications to cut down woodlands time after time provoke a powerful backlash from residents,’ he said.
‘We wouldn’t want to tear up the greenbelt for commercial use here, but importing products linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest simply outsources the destruction of nature.’
He said if the UK government wants to be taken seriously as a global environmental leader then it needs to ‘urgently take action’.
The charities want new laws to ensure agricultural supply chains are not wrecking the planet, saying it is ‘time for government to stop passing the buck to consumers’.
Brazil is home to 464 globally threatened species including the giant anteater and the black-faced black spider monkey, both at risk from deforestation
Alongside beef production, soy has historically been one of the commodities responsible for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and destruction of its neighbour, the species-rich Cerrado grassland savannah.
Only around 27 per cent of soy was officially certified as not being associated with deforestation or destruction of habitats.
This means almost 75 per cent could be a deforestation threat to landscapes globally, according to the WWF report
In Brazil, just 2.8 per cent of all soy produced was certified sustainable.
The UK is dependent on soy imports from Brazil – nearly half of which comes from the Mato Grosso state, the report explains.
The volumes imported from this one state are so large that 93,000 hectares of soy plantations are needed – equivalent to more than half the size of Greater London.
Deforestation in the Amazon parts of Mato Grosso increased by 19 per cent last year.
Soy production in Mato Grosso is likely to be putting pressure on forests either directly or indirectly by replacing cattle ranches which themselves replaced forests.
Of the 2,248 fires detected in the Amazon during June, 58 per cent were in Mato Grosso state, the charities said, explaining their claim of a link to UK consumption.
Defra has been approached for comment on the story.
WHICH SPECIES THRIVE IN THE RAINFOREST TODAY?
Today rain forests cover only about two percent of the earth.
However, about half of all plant and animal life exists in the rain forests.
Rain forests exist on each continent except for Antarctica.
Any four-square-mile area of the rain forest can house up to 1,500 flowering plants.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham have discovered that climate change that took place 307 million years ago affected the types of species alive today. The shift caused rain forests around the equator to become drier (file photo)
The same amount of space can be home to 750 tree species, 400 bird species and 150 butterfly species.
Resources such as timber, cocoa, coffee, and some medicinal products come from the rain forests.
The US National Cancer Institute has said that 70 percent of plants that are beneficial in treating cancer grow exclusively in rain forests.
Yet out of all the many tropical rain forest species, less than one percent have been evaluated for their medicinal value.