Welsh Game of Thrones Star and Environmentalist, Iwan Rheon, has added his voice to a coalition of charities urging Wales to lead the way in protecting our world’s most important natural resources by committing to eliminate imported deforestation from its supply chains, therefore becoming the first ‘Deforestation Free Nation’.

As the countdown to the Senedd elections begin, WWF Cymru, Size of Wales and RSPB Cymru are calling on all parties to urgently commit to policies that will remove imported deforestation from Welsh supply chains.

An estimated 18 million hectares of forest, an area approximately nine times the size of Wales, is lost globally every year. An area of forest the size of a rugby pitch is lost every two seconds. These crucial habitats are being deforested to produce just a handful of commodities, namely palm oil, soy, rubber, timber, pulp and paper, coffee, cacao and beef. Many of these commodities are imported into Wales. For example, palm oil driving deforestation can be found in everyday food items, whilst imported soy is primarily used as animal feed.

Iwan Rheon said “We need to take responsibility for how our actions at home in Wales have catastrophic consequences for nature abroad, and add fuel to the climate crisis.  I urge the next Welsh Government to lead by example and stop importing products and commodities that are destroying the world’s rainforests and their incredible wildlife. Let’s create a future Wales where we are nothing but proud of our global contribution”

Iwan’s call is backed by the Welsh public with a recent YouGov Survey (2) revealing that over 80% of Welsh adults agree we need a food chain that helps the environment. Nearly half (44%) of Welsh adults said they consider their contribution to deforestation in their food choices with a further 10% saying lockdown had made them consider deforestation in supply chains more carefully.

Global deforestation and land use changes account for up to 15 per cent of global emissions. Habitat destruction in critically important forests, one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss. Deforestation occurs in biodiversity hotspots such as the Amazon, and forests in Indonesia – home to incredible, yet endangered species including the giant anteater, jaguar and orangutan.

This habitat loss also risks sparking further pandemics. 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.

 Shea Buckland-Jones, Food, Land Use and Nature Policy Manager at WWF Cymru said:   

 “Too often, the things we buy, consume and invest in in Wales have direct links with the destruction of some of our most precious overseas habitats. We need to end this.  We are calling on the Welsh Government to do everything within their power to act urgently to make sure that the products and commodities that we import into Wales are not driving the deforestation of crucial overseas habitats.  

If we don’t act now, we are not only contributing to the destruction of the natural world and accelerating climate change, but we are also starting the timer on the next global health crisis – which as we know could have grave consequences throughout the planet”.   

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

“With 2020 recently announced as the joint hottest year on record, there has never been a more urgent time to act. Tropical forests are vital to preventing global temperatures rising and are central to overcoming the climate crisis.

If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint, we simply cannot afford to keep importing products that cause deforestation and emissions elsewhere. Following the upcoming election, the Welsh Government must use this moment to reject the deforestation economy and take the case to world leaders at the global COP26 climate summit in November.”

Rhys Evans, Policy Officer at RSPB Cymru, said:  

“Over 80% of the UK’s imported soy is used for animal feed, so by eating meat that is fed on soy that comes from high-risk deforestation areas, we are indirectly contributing to the problem of deforestation without knowing it.  

To help prevent this, we should facilitate agroecological farming that reduces reliance on external inputs and embraces closed nutrient cycles.  Alongside this, we 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.”   

The next Welsh Government can support the removal of products and commodities imported into Wales that cause deforestation of crucial overseas habitats. The coalition have outlined how policymakers and businesses can work together to achieve this through their new report ‘Making Wales a Deforestation Free Nation’ (1).  The report proposes ten key recommendations including introducing deforestation free targets in funding Welsh Government provides to businesses and ensuring sustainable food and farming practices do not contribute to deforestation overseas.