Rainforest protection is 'too weak'

Logging

Decisions by companies in the US and Europe can impact the amount of deforestation in the Amazon, Brazil. 

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Legislation will ban products that breach local laws to protect natural areas, and businesses that do not conduct due diligence on their supply chain will be fined.

It turns a blind eye to the money pipeline funding forest destruction by excluding the finance sector.

A new law forcing UK businesses to check for risks of illegal deforestation in their supply chains will go ahead following strong support from a consultation.

The law will prohibit larger companies from using agricultural commodities that have not been produced in line with laws in the countries where they originate. Companies will also have to publish information about their due diligence exercise under the law.

Legislation will be added to the environment bill, which is currently going through Parliament. Fines are to be introduced for companies that do not comply, those these will be set at a later date.

Omissions

The laws were recommended earlier this year in a report commissioned from an independent task force commissioned by the government and chaired by Sir Ian Cheshire, city financier and lead non-executive director of the government.

The report recommended that the law covered businesses and the finance sector. However, the government has not included financial companies in the law, which has disappointed campaigners. They also criticised the government for  only requiring businesses to check for deforestation deemed as illegal by domestic laws.

Jo Blackman, head of forests advocacy and policy at Global Witness, said: “Their proposed law is in danger of continuing some of the most damaging deforestation, just because it is deemed ‘legal’ in domestic laws. Crucially, it also turns a blind eye to the money pipeline funding forest destruction by excluding the finance sector."

Greenpeace said that these omissions meant the law would do “almost nothing” to tackle deforestation. Pat Venditti, Greenpeace UK campaigns director said: “After a decade of failed voluntary commitments by UK companies, this should be a line in the sand moment for the government.”

Diplomacy

In its response to the consultation, the government acknowledged the support from environmental campaigners and some businesses for the law to cover all deforestation, but said that supporting national governments’ own efforts provides the best path to long-term sustainability, and that it would continue to engage with governments on the issue. 

Venditti said: "This doesn’t stack up given the Bolsonaro government in Brazil has systematically attacked indigenous rights and environmental safeguards, leading to the fastest rate of Amazon rainforest destruction since 2008."

The level of fines, which commodities the law will cover, which businesses will be subject to it, and the precise information businesses will be required to report on will be decided through secondary legislation.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and chief reporter for the Ecologist. She tweets at @Cat_Early76.

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