EAC urges government to act with urgency to tackle deforestation

The UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has warned that UK consumption is unsustainable, with the nation’s appetite for commodities including soy, cocoa, palm oil, beef and leather putting enormous pressure on forests.

The EAC is calling on ministers to develop a Global Footprint Indicator to demonstrate this impact to the public and a target to reduce the UK’s impact on global deforestation. The Committee says that such a measure will only be meaningful if sufficient monitoring and reporting is embedded for forest risks – including mining – so EAC recommends that the government work with international partners to improve oversight in the UK and globally.

Through legislative provision in the Environment Act, the government has committed to establishing a regime to require forest-based commodities to be certified as “sustainable” if they are to be sold into UK markets. At COP28 the Government announced that the first four of these commodities are to be cattle products (other than dairy), cocoa, palm oil and soy.

While the government’s intention to tackle sustainability concerns of products is welcome, EAC says that it is concerned over the apparent lack of urgency about the implementation of this regime.

The EAC is also calling on government to bring other forest-risk commodities, such as maize, rubber and coffee, into the certification regime as soon as possible.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said, “UK consumption is having an unsustainable impact on the planet at the current rate. UK markets must not be flooded with products that threaten the world’s forests, the people whose livelihoods rely on them and the precious ecosystems that call them home. Yet despite the recent commitment before and at COP28 to invest more in reforestation measures and The Amazon Fund to help halt the speed of global deforestation, the UK needs to take tangible steps to turn the dial at home.

“The government’s ambition and stated commitment at COP26 to halt deforestation by 2030 was very welcome: but it is not on track now. Its legislation for a regime to require certain products to be certified as ‘sustainable’ before they can be sold in UK markets was welcome: but the implementing legislation has still not come forward. There is little sense of urgency about getting a rapid grip on the problem of deforestation, which needs to match the rhetoric.

“Countries all around the world contribute to deforestation, and the international community of course needs to do much more to tackle deforestation. Yet on some measures the intensity of UK consumption of forest-risk commodities is higher than that of China: this should serve as a wake-up call to the Government. To demonstrate genuine global leadership in this critical area, the UK must demonstrate domestic policy progress, and embed environmental and biodiversity protections in future trade deals.”

Read the latest EAC report, The UK’s contribution to tackling global deforestation

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