UK’s main environmental laws still fail to impact deforestation, NGO study says « Carbon Pulse

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Britain’s “world-leading” environmental laws, enacted two years ago, have had no impact on deforestation rates due to a lack of follow-up action by the government, according to an analysis carried out by an NGO and published on Tuesday. .

A report by campaign group Global Witness, backed by data from supply chain mapping service Trase, found that since the environmental law was passed, imports from the UK have resulted in 20,400 hectares of deforestation, twice the size of Paris. It is the cause.

“For two years, the government has struggled with which products that cause deforestation should be included in these regulations. During this time, tropical forests continue to be destroyed to grow crops and graze cattle.” Veronica Oakeshott, head of forest campaigns at Global Witness, said in a statement.

The Environment Act 2021 aims to stop big UK companies from using products that have a huge negative impact on deforestation, such as beef, soy and palm oil.

However, implementation of the deforestation rules has so far stalled as the Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has not yet published an official list of affected products.

UK direct import deforestation exposure for seven high-risk products from November 2021 to July 2023

Deforestation exposure of UK direct imports for seven high-risk products from November 2021 to July 2023 (Source: Global Witness/Trase)

Survey data shows oil palm is the most pressing concern, accounting for 43% of the UK’s total exposure, with Indonesia the main supplier of this commodity. Soybean and beef products accounted for 31% of the total exposure, most of which came from Brazil.

Data shows that some countries are only exposed through one market, such as Colombia for coffee and Ivory Coast for cocoa.

In October, business leaders called on the UK government to bring it in line with EU deforestation regulations, which came into force in July and are due to apply in 18 months. EU law requires importers to prove that their products do not cause deforestation, initially targeting derivative products such as beef, furniture and chocolate, as well as palm oil, cattle, soybeans and coffee. , applied to cocoa, wood, rubber.

Signatories to the UK letter, which includes Nestlé, Unilever and major supermarkets, highlighted the direct impact on trade through Northern Ireland and the potential for goods to be affected, but It also emphasized that exports from the UK to the EU could be restricted due to the lack of the following legislation:

“The Government needs to listen to UK retailers and fully align with EU deforestation regulations, which cover all products with forest risk. To stop deforestation imports from the UK It is outrageous that Defra will not give the go-ahead for simple regulations that are needed to protect people,” Mr Oakeshott said.

Trase data shows that many of the UK’s agricultural and forestry products that cause deforestation are imported through EU member states, where they are often refined and processed. Without alignment of UK and EU deforestation regulations, products could become fragmented between parallel but separate regulatory approaches, undermining Europe-wide efforts to stop deforestation.

Zak Goldsmith, the UK’s environment secretary from 2022 to 2023, said in a statement: “We have passed environmental legislation with great fanfare, which will reduce illegal deforestation caused by primary commodity production from supply chains. It was a truly groundbreaking piece of legislation.” H

“However, there has been virtually no progress since this law was passed, and not a single tropical tree has yet been saved. The government needs to stop delaying and making U-turns and move on.”

Other key aspects of environmental law have also been delayed, with the legal requirement for land developers to achieve a 10% net increase in biodiversity on their sites, for example, being postponed to 2024.

Reducing deforestation in the tropics remains one of the most widespread challenges affecting global biodiversity.

Earlier this month, the Forest Declaration Assessment found that global deforestation commitments made at the 2021 COP26 UN Climate Change Conference, hosted by the UK in Glasgow, are well off track to halt deforestation by 2030. revealed.

Written by Tom Woolnough – tom@carbon-pulse.com

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