Plans to clean up UK supply chains to help protect forests

Businesses, producers and governments around the world are invited to help shape new measures and respond to the consultation, helping to tackle illegal deforestation associated with UK supply chains.

Plans to clean up UK supply chains to tackle illegal deforestation were stepped up last week as the government launched a consultation on how to implement new measures into environment law.

Demonstrating the UK’s commitment to go further than ever to tackle illegal deforestation, the consultation will help develop plans requiring due diligence on the part of companies to ensure they are using raw materials produced in accordance with relevant local laws.

The measures ban large UK companies from using commodities whose production is associated with large-scale forest loss, such as cocoa, beef, soybeans, coffee, corn and palm oil , when they have not been produced in accordance with the relevant standards. local laws.

Businesses will also be required to perform due diligence to show that they have taken steps to ensure this is the case, and to report thereon annually.

Launching the consultation, International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said:

Our forests not only play a vital role in cooling the planet, they are a source of clean air and water, home to indigenous communities and some of the most valuable biodiversity on Earth – protecting them is essential to our survival. .

Now that the environmental law is enacted, we have the opportunity to shape these due diligence measures to effectively tackle the main drivers of deforestation. Along with the introduction of these cutting-edge measures, we intend to ensure that the global coalition that we assembled last month under the British presidency at COP26 to commit to stopping and reversing the loss of forests by 2030 becomes a reality.

Forests absorb up to a third of the global CO2 emitted by the combustion of fossil fuels each year, but we are losing them at an alarming rate. Between 2015-20, an area of ​​forest the size of 27 football fields was lost every minute – with nearly three-quarters of deforestation linked to the expansion of agriculture, with land being cleared to make way for grazing animals and culture.

Globally, nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation has been the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture and timber plantations, and this figure is closer to 90% in some key forests. It is therefore vital to work with producer countries and support their efforts to enforce their laws and protect their forests. The UK, working with 28 producer and consumer governments that account for 75% of global trade in major commodities, has developed a common roadmap of actions to protect forests and other ecosystems while promoting sustainable development and commercial dialogue. This FACT (Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade) roadmap also launched at COP26 has been backed by £ 500million in UK funding for aid delivery.

Justin Adams, Executive Director of Tropical Forest Alliance, said:

Britain’s COP Presidency is to be credited with putting the nature agenda at the heart of recent COP26 climate negotiations – there is simply no path to 1.5 degrees without changing the way where we produce food and manage our landscapes. While there were many really important public and private sector commitments and investments announced in Glasgow, the real test is turning them into action. The due diligence requirements in historic environmental law are a good example of how these political signals can be implemented in the right way. The main lesson we have learned from tackling deforestation over the past decade is that no one actor can do it alone – collective action and partnership are the key to success. It will be crucial to seek the contributions of producers, other consuming countries and companies working to tackle deforestation in their supply chains.

The consultation will seek opinions on:

  • Which at-risk forest products should be subject to initial regulation
  • Which companies should be regulated
  • How companies should conduct due diligence exercises to identify, assess and mitigate risks; and what information should be included in their annual reports:
  • What elements of business relationships should be made public
  • How will the enforcement authority monitor and ensure regulatory compliance.

Today’s announcement follows the UK’s host of COP26, which saw commitments from over 141 world leaders to work collectively to stop and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while ensuring sustainable development and promoting inclusive rural transformation.

It is part of a package of measures to ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into UK supply chains and contribute to global efforts to protect forests and other ecosystems.

Secondary legislation is needed to implement the Environment Act regulations, which will make it illegal for large UK companies to use key forest products designated at risk if they have not been produced in accordance with the laws relevant localities, and will require due diligence on business supply chains to ensure this. Businesses that fail to comply with these requirements may be subject to fines and other civil penalties.

The consultation will last 14 weeks and will gather evidence on how the government can effectively implement due diligence regulations. Comments for the consultation should be submitted online or by mail.

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