Across 29 countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa, some 43 million hectares of forest and other critical natural ecosystems were destroyed between 2004 and 2017, according to the new Deforestation Fronts report.
The authors of the report analysed 24 ‘deforestation fronts’ – areas where a large amount of forest is under threat.
According to the report, the fastest rates of deforestation and land conversion were taking place in the Brazilian Amazon; the Bolivian Amazon; Paraguay; Argentina; Madagascar; and Sumatra and Borneo in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Commercial agriculture was found to be the leading cause of deforestation, with areas cleared to create space for livestock and to grow crops, such as soy for animal feed in the UK.
The report also highlighted that habitat destruction is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss and climate change and it is also a risk factor to humans for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases. As wild habitats are destroyed, the risk of a zoonotic disease event is increased, as humans and livestock are driven into closer contact with wild animals.
Tanya Steele, chief executive at charity WWF, said: ‘Nature is in freefall and our climate is changing dangerously – protecting precious forests like the Amazon is a vital part of the solution to this global crisis. We have an opportunity to stop the things we buy and the food we eat here in the UK from causing the destruction of nature overseas.
‘That’s why we need urgent action from the Government to implement ambitious new laws to get deforestation out of our supply chains. The UK will then be able to show true leadership as hosts of the global climate conference in Glasgow later this year.’
As the UK’s new Environment Bill is poised to return to parliament, WWF is calling on the Government to use the Bill to implement stronger measures to remove all deforestation and habitat conversion from the forest risk commodities we import such as soy palm oil.
This would ensure the Bill requires businesses operating in the UK – including financial institutions – to carry out due diligence to ensure their global supply chains and investments are not linked to the destruction of habitats such as forests and savannah.
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