A coalition of Welsh charities launched a campaign for Wales to eliminate imported deforestation from its economy to tackle climate change, nature loss and build resilience against pandemics.

Ahead of the 2021 Senedd elections, the campaign by Size of WalesRSPB Cymru and WWF Cymru calls on parties to commit to policies that would make Wales the world’s first deforestation free nation.

The campaign has published a report “Making Wales a Deforestation Free Nation” that outlines how policymakers, businesses, and public institutions can work together to achieve this goal.

Currently, Wales’ ecological footprint is five times bigger than the size of the nation itself.

Much of this is caused by the consumption of everyday commodities including beef, soy (found in animal feeds for animals reared for meat, eggs and dairy), palm oil (found in nearly half of packaged products in our supermarkets including biscuits and shampoo), cacao (used to make chocolate), and coffee.

Protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, including rainforests, is vital in securing wildlife habitats, addressing climate change and reducing the overall risk and frequency of future pandemics.  Without our forests, we will fail to limit global warming to the 1.5oC backed by scientists and the Paris Climate Change agreement. Deforestation is being driven in valuable biodiversity hotspots including forests in Indonesia which are home to endangered species such as the orangutan.

The report explains how everyone in Wales plays a part in the deforestation economy and how switching away from products that contribute to deforestation can reduce our nation’s ecological footprint.

The report proposes 10 key recommendations that include incentivising and supporting businesses via Welsh Government’s Economic Contract to make sure their supply chains are deforestation free, reviews of Welsh Government and local government pension fund investments, changes to farming and food practices, and creating a ‘deforestation free’ label for products made in Wales.

Barbara Davies-Quy, Head of Programmes for Size of Wales said:

“Each year the planet loses 18 million hectares of forest, equivalent to nine times the size of Wales. After becoming a Fair Trade Nation and declaring a climate emergency last year, Wales can prove itself to be globally responsible and make history by committing to eliminating imported deforestation from our economy whilst encouraging the rest of the UK and world to follow suit.”

Rhys Evans, Policy Officer for RSPB Cymru said:

“Given that over 80% of Wales is farmed, our food and farming system is key to tackling the climate and ecological crises.  Encouraging agroecological and nature-friendly farming systems that reduce climate-damaging practices such using artificial nitrogen fertiliser and imported livestock feed can help us reduce our environmental impact, both in Wales and beyond.  A new Welsh agricultural and sustainable land management policy should support farmers to transition to agroecological farming and reward farmers fully for the environmental benefits that these farming systems provide.”