Govt plans new law to cut deforestation in supply chains

Plans to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests have been announced by the government as it consults on a new law intended to clean up the UK’s supply chains. The proposals would prohibit larger businesses operating in the UK from using products grown on land that was deforested illegally.

These businesses would be required to carry out due diligence on their supply chains by publishing information to show where key commodities – for example, cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil – came from and that they were produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems. Businesses that fail to comply would be subject to fines, with the precise level yet to be determined.

Protecting forests is considered central to tackling climate change, with deforestation accounting for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions according to figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The vast majority of deforestation (80%) is caused by the production of agricultural commodities and most deforestation – up to 90% in some countries – is illegal. The destruction of these habitats is also believed to increase the risk of extreme weather events, drives biodiversity loss, and exacerbates the spread of infectious diseases.

International environment minister Lord Goldsmith, said that ahead of hosting the UN Climate Change Conference next year, the UK has a duty to lead the way in combatting the biodiversity and nature crisis. “There has been a lot of progress already to make the UK’s supply chains more sustainable, but more needs to be done. We will continue to work closely with farmers, business and governments around the world to ensure that we can protect our vital forests and support livelihoods as we build back greener from coronavirus.”

The proposals follow last year’s establishment of the Government’s independent taskforce – the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) – to consider how the UK could ‘green’ international supply chains and leave a lighter footprint on the global environment by slowing the loss of forests.

Ruth Chambers, from the Greener UK coalition, said: “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation.

“The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed. The government’s Environment Bill provides a timely vehicle to progress this. The proposal must now be tested thoroughly to ensure it will deliver the Government’s domestic and international environmental leadership ambitions.”

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