The government’s legislation would be introduced to protect rainforests by cleaning up the country’s supply chains.
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Large UK businesses could be banned from using products grown on land that was deforested illegally under a new law being proposed by the government.
The legislation would be introduced to clamp down on illegal deforestation and to protect rainforests by cleaning up the UK’s supply chains.
Under the proposals, published by the government on Tuesday, larger businesses operating in the UK would be required to carry out due diligence on their supply chains.
This would mean publishing information to show where key commodities – including rubber, soil and palm oil – came from and that they were produced in line with local laws protecting forests.
Firms would face fines if they fail to comply.
The government said the size of the fine will be set at a later date.
The proposed legislation makes it clear that illegally produced commodities “have no place in the UK market”.
Statistics suggest that deforestation accounts for 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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A survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) recently found that 67% of respondents believe the government should be doing more to tackle the issue in the Amazon rainforest.
A consultation will run for six weeks and seek views from UK and international stakeholders, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said.
The department also said the consultation will consider potential impacts on businesses and other interests.
The announcement follows the establishment of the Global Resource Initiative, the government’s independent taskforce, which was formed in 2019 to consider how the UK could “green” international supply chains.
The UN’s COP26 Climate Change Conference is being held in Glasgow next year.
International Environment Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “The UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis.”
Lord Goldsmith added: “We have all seen the devastating pictures of the world’s most precious forests being cleared, often illegally, and we can’t afford not to act as a country.
“There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint, which is why the government is consulting today on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws.
“Ahead of hosting the UN Climate Change Conference next year, the UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis now upon us.”
Sir Ian Cheshire, the chair of the independent taskforce, said: “I’m delighted to see the government respond to one of the key recommendations of the Global Resource Initiative.
“Starting a discussion on how changes in UK law could help us all to reduce our global footprint. I would encourage as many people as possible to respond to this important consultation.”
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Ruth Chambers, from the Greener UK coalition, added: “This consultation is a welcome first step in the fight to tackle the loss of our planet’s irreplaceable natural wonders such as the Amazon and in the pursuit of supply chains free from products that contribute to deforestation.
“The evidence linking deforestation with climate change, biodiversity loss and the spread of zoonotic diseases is compelling. A new law is an important part of the solution and is urgently needed.
“The proposal must now be tested thoroughly to ensure it will deliver the government’s domestic and international environmental leadership ambitions.”
Mike Barrett, executive director of science and conservation at WWF-UK, added: “It’s clear businesses and consumers don’t want imports that wreck the planet, drive deforestation in areas like the Amazon and lead to devastating fires.
“The government must now fast-track strong, effective laws, that clean up our supply chains and show the UK can take the lead in tackling the global nature and climate crisis.”