New legislation would make it illegal for larger businesses to use products unless they comply with local laws to protect natural areas.
The UK government have proposed a new law, which is now open for consultation, which aims to clamp down on illegal deforestation and protect rainforests.
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 to be set at a later date.
Protecting forests is central to tackling climate change. The UK Government note that 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.
This approach is designed to work in tandem with the existing efforts of governments, communities and business in producer countries to enforce national laws, benefiting law-abiding producers and companies.
The proposed legislation makes clear that illegally produced commodities have no place in the UK market, as we build back greener from coronavirus.
International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith, said: “We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared, often illegally, and we can’t afford not to act as a country. There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint, which is why the government is consulting today on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws.”
“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 now upon us.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce, said: “Every day, British consumers buy food and other products which are contributing to the loss of the world’s most precious forests.”
“I’m delighted to see the Government respond to one of the key recommendations of the Global Resource Initiative. Starting a discussion on how changes in UK law could help us all to reduce our global footprint. I would encourage as many people as possible to respond to this important consultation.”
The consultation will run for six weeks and seek views from UK and international stakeholders, and will take into consideration potential impacts on businesses and other interests. As part of its Presidency of COP26, the UK will continue to support a discussion between governments from around the world to tackle this important issue.
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