The UK Government have announced plans to introduce a new law, to mitigate illegal deforestation and protection rainforests, through stronger due diligence measures and cleaning up UK supply chains.
The legislation, if accepted after the six-week trial, will prohibit larger businesses operating in the UK from using products and commodities grown on land that was deforested or cleared illegally. Fines may also be imposed on these businesses who fail to carry out due diligence on supply chains for key commodities, which will include rubber, soil, and palm oil. Businesses will be expected to publish information on where these resources come and be able to demonstrate that they are produced in line with local laws which protect the forest and integrate sustainable forest management. Exact information on fines and size will be set later.
Deforestation – human-driven or natural loss of trees – accounts for around 11% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Some research suggests that tropical deforestation contributes to around 20% of GHG emissions, where a high majority of key commodities originate. Agriculture, grazing of livestock, mining, and drilling combined account for more than half of all deforestation.
“The UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis”, Zac Goldsmith, the international environment minister. The UN’s COP26 climate change talks were supposed to take place in Glasgow in November, postponed until next year. COP26, the first COP since the Paris Agreement measures took effect, had a significant importance and opportunity to bind nations together for a review of commitments and strengthening ambition. ‘Greener’ international supply chains have been a focus of consideration for the UK, with the creation of an independent task force, Global Resource Initiative. The UK consumes significant amounts of commodities, whose rapid expansion is associated with deforestation: beef and leather, cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper, timber, rubber and soya.
Minister Goldsmith continues, “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”.
The European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR) introduced in 2013, aims to reduce illegal logging by ensuring that no illegal timber or timber products can be sold into the EU. This was created as a part of the EU’s Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan. Only timber which is defined as ‘legal’, complying with the law of the producing country can be traded into the EU. A similar set of laws and regulation will be converted to the UK Timber Regulation (UKTR), after the UK leave the European Union.
As the UK Timber Trade Federation, we had an active involvement in the creation of the EUTR and contribute to stakeholder engagement regarding timber regulation, supply chain mapping, trade requirements and have a strong communication message behind the EU FLEGT Action Plan. We therefore strongly encourage a similar approach to the EUTR for other commodities to ensure only legally produced products are traded. For this stronger laws, due diligence measures and clear supply chains are crucial.
DEFRA are holding a consultation to seek views from different stakeholders on this proposal. You can submit your views via their online survey here which closes on the 5th October.
For more information, visit ttf.co.uk