Climate Change: Wales could be 'first deforestation free nation'

By Steffan Messenger
BBC Wales Environment Correspondent

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media captionA charity says a forest the size of a rugby pitch is being lost every two seconds

Food linked to the felling of rainforests must be banned in Welsh school dinners in a bid to help tackle climate change, campaigners have said.

Every year an area of woodland about nine times the size of Wales is lost globally.

Charities say the Welsh Government must curb the use of some goods in a bid to make Wales the "world's first deforestation-free nation".

The Welsh Government said tackling deforestation was "vital".

A report, complied by WWF Cymru, RSPB Cymru and Size of Wales, calls for action to limit the amount of goods being imported into Wales linked to deforestation.

The campaigners want the next Welsh Government to make changes to public procurement rules, to stop school and hospital canteens serving up dishes containing certain products.

The report warns there are risks of sparking further pandemics, as wild animals are forced into closer contact with humans and livestock due to deforestation.

image copyrightWWF
image captionThe WWF says action is needed to stop illegal deforestation, as pictured here in Brazil

Barbara Davies Quy, of Size of Wales, said a forest the size of a rugby pitch was being lost every two seconds in a bid to produce products such as palm oil, soy, timber, coffee, cocao and beef.

"All of these products are imported into Wales and may end up in the food and drink we consume every day," she said.

"We're all part of a deforestation economy."

She said that ministers must show "global leadership" in the run up to the major UN climate conference COP26 later this year.

media captionDeforestation: What’s wrong with planting new forests?

So how could it happen?

The campaigners want to see Welsh ministers urge the UK government to push ahead with plans in its new environment bill to ban firms from selling certain goods in the UK if they have been grown on land that breaches local laws on protecting forests

In the report, put forward ahead of this year's Senedd election, the charities also call for the Welsh Government to go a step further to become a world leader in tackling climate change.

The report calls on ministers not to give grants to businesses unless they commit to using deforestation-free supply chains, and for a new local and sustainable food strategy to be introduced, with farmers incentivised to move away from using imported soy to feed their livestock.

Rhys Evans, of RSPB Cymru, said people might not realise that over 80% of the soy sent to the UK was used for animal feed.

He said the Welsh Government had any opportunity to support ways of working that "reduce reliance on external inputs" during its review of farming subsidies post-Brexit.

"We [also] need a food system that both drives and rewards local, sustainable farm to fork supply chains and prioritises only sustainable goods from overseas to support livelihoods at home and abroad," he said.

image copyrightJenipher's Coffi
image captionIn Cardiff a new coffee brand has been launched to promote sustainable bean harvesting in Uganda

The campaigners also want government greenhouse gas emission targets to include those associated with imported goods that have caused deforestation and for ministers to work with UK government to make sure new trade deals adhere to high environmental standards.

But the charities recognised removing products completely from Welsh shelves would largely be down to businesses that buy and sell them.

'We can make a real difference'

image captionShea Buckland-Jones said individuals could make a "real difference" with their shopping choices

Shea Buckland-Jones, of WWF Cymru, said ministers had "significant levers and real potential" to influence what ends up in our shopping baskets.

He said the public could make a "real difference" by choosing locally produced or fair trade goods when buying certain products.

'What can I do to help?'

image captionElen Jones said the public wanted to do their bit to help the environment

In Cardiff a new coffee brand has been launched in a bid to help tackle climate change, by using sustainably sourced beans from Uganda.

Elen Jones, of Jenipher's Coffi, said many people were already trying to do their bit to protect the environment by reducing single-use plastic use and trying to reduce the amount they throw away.

"[People] are asking 'what can I do about that personally?'," she said.

"So for the government to support initiatives like this, they'd have the public right behind them."

It is hoped the project, which has received a Welsh Government grant, will help strengthen links with the Mbale region of Uganda, where it is hoped 25 million trees can be planted by 2025 using Welsh funding.

The Welsh Government said: "Tackling global deforestation is vital in responding to the climate emergency and the decline of our biodiversity.

"We welcome the new Making Wales a Deforestation Free Nation report, and will consider carefully its recommendations."

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