Half of UK emissions 'hidden' in overseas supply chains

24 February 2021

The UK government needs to take action to offset the impact of imported foods like coffee, cocoa and bananas on CO2 emissions in overseas supply chains, a report has warned.

The Fairtrade Foundation said 46% of UK greenhouse gas emissions were “hidden” and generated overseas, often in poorer, climate-vulnerable nations, to create food and produce to meet UK demand.

The report said current efforts from government and business were failing to protect small-scale farmers on the frontline of the climate crisis in low-income countries.

Fairtrade said as much as 50% of global land currently used for coffee farming may no longer be suitable and changing climate conditions will trigger a drastic decline in bananas yields in 10 countries.

And areas in leading cocoa producers Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire threaten to become too hot to grow the crop.

Fairtrade is calling for “stronger, faster action” to drive down emissions in agricultural supply chains.

This would mean including international aviation and shipping in UK carbon budgets and setting out a clear policy to reduce these emissions, as recommended by the UK’s Climate Change Committee, the report said.

“If the UK’s hidden carbon footprint were a country, it would rank higher than over 170 other nations in the global tally of biggest emitters, and it is several times higher than the total footprint of many low-income countries who supply the UK’s food,” added the report.

“Nevertheless, the UK’s climate targets only address its domestic footprint, not offshore emissions.”

Fairtrade CEO Mike Gidney said chocolate and coffee could conceivably become luxury items by 2050 “if global heating continues apace”.

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