The UK will make it illegal for supermarkets and restaurants to sell products linked to illegal deforestation.
The Environment Bill now before parliament will make it illegal to sell beef, soy, rubber, palm oil and other key commodities sourced from land that is protected by local laws.
Tesco Plc and Nestle SA were among 21 companies that last month asked the government to strengthen the plan beyond local laws to all deforestation. This would protect areas where degrading important natural ecosystems has not been defined as illegal.
CEO of Tesco UK & ROI, Jason Tarry described the government’s move as a first step saying, “Due diligence has an important role to play in halting deforestation, fighting climate change and protecting communities… We hope this encourages all businesses to do the right thing.”
The Fairtrade Foundation’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, Alice Lucas, said, “We are keen to ensure that any due diligence legislation is robust, producer focused, ensures smallholder farmers and workers do not lose out, and is effective in ensuring compliance with meaningful impact.
“We remain concerned that the government continues to press ahead with a law that will only hold companies to account in line with local laws. We are also concerned that the new law would not include action on human rights abuses, and only covers illegal deforestation.”
There were more than 60,000 responses
The announcement coincides with the publication of the government’s response to the Global Resource Initiative recommendations. There were more than 60,000 responses to the government’s consultation, with 99% in favour of legislating on this issue.
The new report says 80 per cent of deforestation is linked to the expansion of agriculture, with land being cleared to make way for grazing animals and to grow crops. The UK imports over half of the food it consumes, and while the UK is a relatively small consumer of forest risk commodities it is leaving an ever-larger footprint on the world’s forests.
One report estimated that UK imports of just seven commodities such as soy, cocoa and palm oil account for a land footprint equivalent to 88% of the UK in size – up 15% from three years ago.
Deforestation is a leading cause of CO2 emissions globally, second only to burning fossil fuels.