New law forces UK businesses to comply with local laws to protect natural areas when sourcing products

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A new law has been introduced in the upcoming Environment Bill which will make it illegal for UK businesses to use key commodities if they have not been produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.

The law will also mean businesses will need to be more transparent about where they source key commodities from, and businesses that fail to comply will be subject to fines, with the precise level to be set at a later date through secondary legislation.

The government has announced they will move swiftly to bring this legislation into force, laying the necessary secondary legislation shortly after COP26, where they will be forging an alliance of governments from around the world to agree a new approach to tackling this problem.

International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith, commented on the announcement: “In every conceivable way we depend on the natural world around us.

“Rainforests cool the planet, provide clean air and water, and are a haven for some of the most endangered species on Earth – and so protecting them must be a core priority.

“Our new due diligence law is one piece of a much bigger package of measures that we are putting in place to tackle deforestation.

“Our intent is not just to take world-leading domestic measures, but to build a global alliance of countries committed to working together to protect the world’s precious forests.

“Last month, nearly 80 countries signed the Leader’s Pledge for Nature, committing to reverse the destruction of nature by 2030.

“The UK played a key role in crafting the pledge, and as hosts of the next and all important UN Climate Conference, we have a chance to turn those powerful words into action.”

The announcement coincides with the publication of a new report setting out government’s approach to tackling deforestation linked to UK demand for products such as cocoa, rubber, soya, and palm oil.

The report responds to the recommendations from the independent Global Resource Initiative Taskforce, which consulted over 200 leading businesses and organisations.

Combined, the package of measures will ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains by working in partnership with other countries and supporting farmers to transition to more sustainable food and land use systems.

There were more than 60,000 responses to the government’s consultation, with 99% in favour of legislating on the issue.

Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce, commented: “We are at an extraordinary inflection point – governments are having to invest in recovery and have choices about how to invest to build back better.

“One of the ways we can do this is through our supply chains and what we buy.

“The Government’s Response to our GRI Report recognises the responsibility of the UK to ensure we are not importing deforestation and contributing to further environmental crisis, but doing so in partnership with other countries to help them make this transition to sustainability.

“The GRI Taskforce will continue to support and advise Government towards ambitious outcomes as it delivers on these commitments in the run up to the UN Climate Change Conference next year.”

80% of deforestation is linked to the expansion of agriculture, with land being cleared to make way for grazing animals and to grow crops.

The UK imports over half of the food it consumes, and while in global terms the UK is a relatively small consumer of forest risk commodities such as cocoa, rubber, soya, and palm oil, we are leaving an ever-larger footprint on the world’s forests.

The Environment Bill returned to Parliament on Tuesday 3 November.

Today’s report also details the Government’s wider package of measures to support countries and companies looking to reduce commodity drive deforestation, including through future trade policies, public procurement, and the development of a sustainable Food Service Sector Action Plan.

Consultation on the introduction of due diligence on forest risk commodities: Summary of responses and the government response is available on the government website.