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Foreign demand for agricultural commodities drives virtual carbon exports from Cambodia

Author:
  • Emma Johansson
  • Stefan Olin
  • Jonathan Seaquist
Publishing year: 2020
Language: English
Publication/Series: Environmental Research Letters
Volume: 15
Issue: 6
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: IOP Publishing

Abstract english

Rapid deforestation is a major sustainability challenge, partly as the loss of carbon sinks exacerbates global climate change. In Cambodia, more than 13% of the total land area has been contracted out to foreign and domestic agribusinesses in the form of economic land concessions, causing rapid large-scale land use change and deforestation. Additionally, the distant drivers of local and global environmental change often remain invisible. Here, we identify hotspots of carbon loss between 1987-2017 using the dynamic global vegetation model LPJ-GUESS and by comparing past and present land use and land cover. We also link global consumption and production patterns to their environmental effects in Cambodia by mapping the countries to which land-use embedded carbon are exported. We find that natural forests have decreased from 54%-21% between 1987 and 2017, mainly for the expansion of farmland and orchards, translating into 300 million tons of carbon lost, with loss rates over twice as high within economic land concessions. China is the largest importer of embedded carbon, mainly for rubber and sugarcane from Chinese agribusinesses. Cambodian investors have also negatively affected carbon pools through export-oriented products like rubber. The combined understanding of environmental change and trade flows makes it possible to identify distant drivers of deforestation, which is important for crafting more environmentally and socially responsible policies on national and transnational scales.

Keywords

  • Economic Geography
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
  • deforestation
  • economic land concessions
  • land grabbing
  • LPJ-GUESS
  • virtual carbon export

Other

Published
  • ISSN: 1748-9318
E-mail: stefan [dot] olin [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se

Postdoctoral fellow

Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science

+46 46 222 38 30

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Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science
Lund University
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Sweden

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