12 Nov UK Government announces new sustainability measures to protect rainforests
The new Environmental Bill released on the 11th November focuses on illegal deforestation activities and the protection of our global rainforests. The rulings will ensure larger businesses use products that meet local law standards and have minimal impact on the environment.
The announcement coincides with the release of a new government report detailing the measures to reduce deforestation and its connection with the UK’s demand for particular products including palm oil, cocoa, rubber and soya. The report includes recommendations based on the Global Resource Initiative Taskforce, a collective group of over 200 organisations and business leaders.
The new measures will enhance resilience and ensure traceability and sustainability are integrated into supply chains in the UK by collaborating with other nations and supporting farmers to make the transition to more sustainable food and land use.
The Government consultation received more than 60,000 responses, with an overwhelming majority in favour of implementing legislation on this important issue. One particular measure included in the Environment Bill will require businesses to increase due diligence and make it illegal for UK companies to use certain commodities if they have not met local laws regarding the protection of natural ecosystems.
Approximately 80% of deforestation is directly linked to the increase of agriculture, with extensive areas of land being cleared for livestock and to grow crops. The UK currently imports over half of the food it consumes and while the UK may represent a relatively small consumer of forest-risk related commodities, our impact on global forests continues to increase.
The International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith recently stated that in every possible way we have a degree of dependence on the natural world. Lord Goldsmith emphasises that rainforest, with the value in temperature regulation and as a habitat for many endangered species means protective measures should be a top priority.
The new due diligence measures will place more emphasis on tackling deforestation. The regulations intend to spur the development of a global alliance of nations committed to collaborating on ways to protect our planet’s rainforests.
In the last month, close to 80 nations agreed on the Leader’s Pledge for Nature, a commitment to eradicate the destruction of nature by 2030. As hosts of the upcoming UN Climate Conference, the UK can support and drive these goals into action.
We are currently in a time where governments are having to focus investment in recovery plans and have the choice in how they invest and how to build back better. One way of achieving this is by considering our supply chains and our buying processes. Executive Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance, Justin Adams believes that the recommendations listed in the GRI report highlight the importance and the challenges of addressing tropical deforestation. Mr Adams explains that it is positive to see the UK Government is beginning to adopt some of the measures, including due diligence legislation in the new Environment Bill and developing a closer relationship with other nations through the Sustainable Land Use and Commodity Trade Dialogue.
The report also includes a wider range of measures focused on supporting nations and businesses actively looking to reduce commodity-driven deforestation, including the increased focus on a sustainable Food Service Sector Action Plan.
Along with the domestic measures, the UK government will focus on its position within the UN Climate Change summit to build upon its transition towards more sustainable supply chains by reaching out to producer and consumer nations of forest risk commodities to communicate, plan and deliver decisive action.
The new announcement represents the ambitions and goals of COP26 while continuing to focus on a movement towards more sustainable processes of production.
The new environmental law will also ensure businesses are more transparent about commodity sourcing and businesses that fail to comply will be liable to penalty fines. The UK Government confirmed that they will move quickly with implementing the new legislation, with a follow-up plan to be introduced after COP26. According to government studies, nearly half of all recent tropical deforestation was a result of illegal activity for commercial agriculture and timber plantations. In some regions, the figure rises to over 90%.
Defra, BEIS and FCDO commissioned the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) in 2018 and earlier this year, published a report with a set of recommendations for bold action towards reducing climate change and the environmental impacts in supply chains in the UK. The GRI Task Force explores methods of changing production, trade and the consumption of commodity agriculture and forestry products to a more environmental, social and economically sustainable process for all. The taskforce highlights the impacts of deforestation in regards to certain commodities in the UK including, palm oil, timber, soya, rubber, cocoa, paper and beef.