Comment: Amazon drought 30 times more likely due to climate change

Gareth Redmond-King is available for comment and interview.

By Tricia Curmi

info@eciu.net

Information on this page correct as of:

Commenting on the World Weather Attribution analysis that finds that man-made climate change was the main driver of the exceptional 2023 drought in the Amazon Basin [1], Gareth Redmond-King, Head of International Programme at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) said:

“The Amazon region and its rainforests are critical to regulating our planet’s climate. But this area of South America is also critical to the UK in an even more immediate sense. We import half of our food, and around half of those imports come from climate impact hotspots. [2] Peru, Colombia and Brazil are amongst those hotspots, and are our top suppliers of bananas, avocados, melons, guavas and other fruit, as well as soya beans for feeding British livestock. These are things we can’t necessarily grow in the UK, so climate change’s devastating effects on South America’s farmers last year may well translate into gaps on our supermarket shelves, and higher prices for our food.

“With a significant chance 2024 is set to be the hottest year humans have ever experienced, and as climate impacts and energy costs have already put more than £600 on average food bills over the last couple of years [3], this is one of the reasons most people in the UK are worried about the worsening effects of climate change. Answers will be needed on how we support these vulnerable countries to continue to produce our food. UK climate leadership has taken a hit on the global stage in the last year with Government U-turns, and that is a key lever the UK has to help accelerate the world’s cutting emissions from burning fossil fuels. This is fundamental to reaching net zero emissions, which is ultimately what stops these impacts getting worse.”

ECIU analysis found that for UK imports from the Amazon region, the volume and value of goods and services included:

Brazil

  • Aside from watermelons, nearly three fifths (57%) of the melons we consume in the UK are imported directly from low climate-readiness countries – 78 million kg at a value of £65 million. Almost half of the melons we import (45%; 61 million kg, worth £50 million) come from just one country: Brazil
  • 91% of the guavas, mangoes and mangosteens imported to the UK – 64 million kg, worth £140 million – come directly from low-climate readiness countries, which aligns with the proportion grown globally in low-climate readiness countries (89%). Brazil is the UK’s largest single supplier in this category, providing over a quarter (27%) of our imports; 19 million kg at a value of £32 million.
  • The UK imports over two thirds (68%) of its soya beans, 608 million kilograms worth £317 million, directly from low climate readiness countries. We get virtually all of that from one country alone: Brazil. According to the FAO, more than half (57%) of soya beans globally are grown in low climate readiness countries.

Peru

  • The UK imports almost two thirds of its avocados (64%) – 68 million kg, worth £112 million – directly from low climate-readiness countries. Peru (ND-GAIN 48.6) is by far the single biggest supplier, accounting for a third (35%) of the UK’s avocados; 37 million kg, worth just over £60 million. Alongside other low climate-readiness countries (South Africa, Colombia), large proportions of our imports come from nations still highly vulnerable to climate extremes.

Colombia

  • The UK imports three quarters (74%) of its bananas – 626 million kg, worth £379 million – directly from low-climate readiness countries. Our main supply country is Colombia (ND-GAIN 47.8), from which we import 28% of our bananas; 242 million kg at a value of £139m. The UN Food and Agriculture’s (FAO) estimate that 73% of the world’s bananas are grown in low-climate readiness countries.”

ENDS


Notes to editors:

  1. The World Weather Attribution analysis is published on Wednesday 24 January.
  2. ECIU has published two reports looking into climate impacts on UK food imports, one focused on climate-vulnerable countries: https://eciu.net/analysis/reports/2023/climate-impacts-on-uk-food-imports-2 and another looking at the Mediterranean: https://eciu.net/analysis/reports/2023/climate-impacts-on-uk-food-imports
  3. Separate ECIU found that compared to 2021, British households are likely to pay an extra £605 for food in 2022 and 2023 due to climate change impacts and historically high oil, gas and fertiliser prices: https://eciu.net/analysis/reports/2023/climate-fossil-fuels-and-uk-food-prices-2023

For more information or for interview requests:

George Smeeton, Head of Communications, ECIU, Tel: 07894 571 153, email: george.smeeton@eciu.net