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15 Sep 2021

edie newsroom

UK: Companies renew calls to govt. to strengthen proposed Environment Bill on fighting deforestation

"Businesses write to Government (again) calling for strengthened Environment Bill", 15 September 2021

Supermarkets and food producers are asking the government to consider amendments to the Environment Bill to strengthen its provisions to tackle deforestation. In a letter dated 15th September, the companies reiterate that the Environment Bill would only tackle "illegal deforestation".

“We are happy to see the Bill progress,” the letter states, “however, as currently drafted it only addresses deforestation defined as illegal under local laws and as we said in our 2020 letter, ‘Restricting action to illegal deforestation only would not achieve halting the loss of these natural ecosystems, especially when producing country governments have the discretion to decide what is legal or have inadequate enforcement mechanisms, and local land title and clearance records can be unreliable or absent.’

“As we approach COP26, we hope we can take this important step towards developing a world-leading regime that can deliver on our joint ambition to end all forms of deforestation.”

The letter has been signed by Asda, the Co-op, Cranswick, Lidl Great Britain, Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, McDonald’s UK & Ireland, Moy Park Wm, Morrison Supermarkets, Mondelēz International, Nandos, Ocado, Tesco and Waitrose & Partners, with more expected to join the call.

The businesses are asking the House of Lords and government to consider amendments to the legislation which would tackle all forms of deforestation.

Continued calls

Last year, the businesses wrote to Defra, warning that organisations should be mandated to disclose information if they have a historically large forest footprint, regardless of their size in terms of turnover or profits. They also point out that many nations and regions facing deforestation have weak domestic and international legislation. As such, only mandating companies to avoid deforestation classed as ‘illegal’ gives them a pass to continue destroying and degrading forests where domestic legislation permits them to do so.

The legislation is designed to eliminate all illegal deforestation from the international supply chains of commodities with a high forest risk. Materials covered include soy, palm oil, cocoa, beef, rubber and leather alongside forestry products like wood and paper. Corporations procuring these materials in the UK will be subject to a “comply or explain” requirement to prove their supply chains are free from illegal deforestation. Non-compliance will result in fines.

In a WWF from August, the extent to which forests will still be at risk if the legislation, first proposed by the Department for Food, the Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) last August, is enshrined in law, was outlined.

WWF, like many other green groups and large businesses, has argued that the law does not go far enough, as many key supplier nations for these materials do not have a broad scope for criminalising deforestation. The new report, entitled ‘Due Negligence’, outlines the levels of global deforestation that could still be permitted under Defra’s existing proposals...

...Reports from the Telegraph suggest that the Government is considering delaying the Environment Bill yet again, this time because of opposition to some of the amendments.

The letter can be accessed in full here.

Part of the following timelines

UK: Environment Bill becomes law, following CSO & business pressure on Govt. to introduce due diligence requirements to tackle deforestation

COP26: UN Climate Summit 2021 - One week in, financing commitments soar, but legitimacy is questioned as civil society is largely excluded