UK firms face fines for fuelling illegal deforestation

Large UK firms could be fined for using products grown on land that was deforested illegally under a new law unveiled by the government today

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The proposals would force businesses to publish information on their supply chains showing where key commodities like cocoa, rubber, soy and palm oil come from, and whether they are produced in line with local laws protecting natural ecosystems.

Firms that fail to comply would be subject to fines, with the precise level to be set at a later date.

A consultation on the new law has opened today and will run for six weeks, seeking views from UK and international stakeholders while taking into consideration potential impacts on businesses and other interests. This comes after the WWF warned earlier this month that deforestation in the Amazon has risen by a third over the last year, and called for an urgent ban.

“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,” said the UK's international environment minister Lord Goldsmith.

“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.”

According to the UN, deforestation accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gases, the majority of which is illegal and caused by the production of agricultural commodities.

Today’s move follows the establishment of the government’s independent taskforce – the Global Resource Initiative – formed in 2019 to consider how the UK could ‘green’ international supply chains.

It also comes on the same day that the WWF published research suggesting that 67% of the UK public believe that the government should be doing more to tackle destruction in the Amazon. Moreover, 81% said there should be greater transparency of the origin of the products imported into the UK, and 73% said that Britain should stop trading with countries that fail to protect the natural environment. 

“Our precious Amazon rainforest is on fire right now due to rampant deforestation and the UK public are telling us they want urgent action,” said Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at the WWF.

“We need tough new laws to cut deforestation out of supply chains – a world-leading Environment Bill would stop the UK importing habitat destruction so shoppers can be confident in the products they buy.”
 

 

Image credit: iStock

Author: 

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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