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Soy trade from Brazil’s Cerrado driving climate emissions

Some 17,500 km2 of Brazil’s Cerrado – an area almost the size of New Jersey - has been cleared in the last 11 years to make way for soy plantations, according to new analysis by Trase which reveals the traders and consumer countries involved.

According to Brazilian government data some 220,000 square kilometres of Amazon and Cerrado vegetation was cleared in Brazil between 2006 and 2017, with 10% of this cleared for soy* in the same period.

About 140,000 km2 of native vegetation was cleared in the Cerrado between 2006 and 2017 in total, according to the latest data from the Brazilian Prodes deforestation monitoring system.

This is almost twice the area of forest lost in the Amazon for the same period, and is of particular concern because the Cerrado’s vast woodland savannah is a rich store of carbon, as well as incredible biodiversity.

While the latest data released by the Brazilian government this week shows deforestation falling in the Cerrado, between 2006 and 2017* deforestation for soy in the Cerrado is estimated to have resulted in 210 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions, with 143 Mt CO2e of this from soy for export.

In 2017, more than half of all exports from the Cerrado went to China (59%), exposing China to a total deforestation risk of 460 square kilometres. This equates to 5.6 MtCO2e.

Exports to European Union countries in 2017 (17%) can be linked to 150 km2 of soy-related deforestation in the Cerrado and 1.7 MtCO2e. 

Trase Director Toby Gardner said:

“Our analysis shows the specific countries and the traders that are associated with the clearance of vast areas of crucial vegetation in the Cerrado for soy, driving up Brazil’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“With global demand for soy increasing, it is crucial that companies and government work together to ensure production is more sustainable, and avoid exacerbating Brazil’s emissions – especially in light of the recent, sobering news that deforestation in the Amazon jumped to its highest level for a decade in the last year.”

Trase data shows that the three biggest soy exporters from the Cerrado were Bunge, Cargill and ADM, with combined exports of 13 million tonnes in 2017. All three companies have made commitments to zero deforestation.

Agricultural expansion to produce soy, beef and palm oil is responsible for some two thirds of tropical deforestation globally. Tropical forest conservation has been identified as crucial for meeting global climate goals, with forests potentially providing one third of the climate solution.

ENDS

Contact:

Helen Burley, Trase communications, email: h.burley@globalcanopy.org

Notes:

Trase is a partnership between Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Global Canopy which seeks to transform our understanding of agricultural commodity supply chains by increasing transparency, revealing the links to environmental and social risks in tropical forest regions, and creating opportunities to improve the sustainability of how these commodities are produced, traded and consumed.

Graphics illustrating deforestation rates, soy deforestation risk, and emission risk are available here.

*This assessment considers that there may be a delay of up to five years after deforestation before soy is planted.

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