Trees and shrubs at Harapan palm plant

The UK’s part in Global Deforestation

Ending the UK’s involvement in overseas deforestation and habitat loss

Why is it happening and the impact it has

On patrol with forest rangers in the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

Tropical forests are being cut down to grow crops such as soy, palm oil and cocoa which the UK is a key consumer of. Deforestation of this kind is one of the leading reasons for biodiversity loss and is estimated to account for 10%-15% of global green house gas emissions. It is also often linked to human rights abuses.

The Risky Business Reports

Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, Indonesia

The RSPB and WWF-UK jointly produced the Risky Business (2017) and the updated Riskier Business reports (2020) to estimate the size of the UK’s overseas land footprint. The  2020 report found that between 2016 and 2018, an area equivalent to 88% of the total land of the UK was required to sustain our need for just seven commodities: beef and leather, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, soy and timber.

Read the reports arrow-down-simple-blue arrow-down-simple-blue

How government should tackle overseas deforestation

Group of local people waling down a dirt path in Harapan

Key actions for the UK Government should take are:

  • Introducing ambitious legislation to phase out deforestation, habitat loss and human rights abuses
  • Adopting the recommendations made by the Global Resource Initiative
  • Creating market incentives for good practice
  • Ensuring related policies such as trade and renewable energy incorporate strong environmental and social safeguards
  • Support producer countries to protect habitats and implement sustainable ways of farming
  • See the Riskier Business report for more detail.

Further steps

Harapan forest from afar

The UK has taken an important step in the right direction by introducing the Environment Act which includes measures that bans UK businesses from using commodities grown on illegally deforested or illegally occupied land. For it to be a success these measures need to be implemented in a strong and effective way and the RSPB will continue to work with NGO partners to try and ensure this happens.