Knowledge for better food systems

Riskier business: The UK’s overseas land footprint

This report, commissioned by UK wildlife charities WWF-UK and RSPB, finds that an area of overseas land equivalent to 88% of the UK’s land area is needed to supply the UK’s demand for beef and leather, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, rubber, soy and timber. This area is increasing over time.

The report notes that some of the increase in land area required is because of UK policy shifts, such as greater demand for wood as a source of renewable energy. For the seven commodities mentioned, the total land footprint is 21.3 MHa, 62% of which is for timber and pulp & paper. Despite this, current UK legislation does not require overseas impacts on biodiversity to be monitored or prevented.

Read the full report, Riskier business: The UK’s overseas land footprint, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource building block What is land use and land use change?

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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