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UK deforestation law risks being ineffective

Proposed laws to help eliminate deforestation in UK supply chains risk being ineffective unless the scope of the legislation is widened, warns a new report published by WWF. 

The new laws that are set to be introduced in the upcoming Environment Bill will make it mandatory for large companies to carry out due diligence checks to ensure that there is no illegal deforestation in their supply chains. 

However, the proposed measures will still allow products that result from legal deforestation to be sold in the UK. 

According to the report, limited data transparency means it is often difficult to determine whether a plantation that has been created at the expense of a forest and other ecosystems has been done so legally. 

This means the proposed due diligence regulation will be extremely difficult for companies to comply with and for the government to enforce. 

green trees on brown soil

The report also warns that one potential consequence of the legality model is that producer countries may weaken legal protections. 

One controversial bill (PL 2633/20) currently going through the Brazilian Congress,  would give amnesty to land grabbers who have illegally invaded and deforested public lands.

Spatial analysis of the areas in Brazil that supply soy directly to the UK shows that over 2.1 million hectares of natural vegetation – an area equivalent to just over the size of Wales – could potentially be legally converted under current laws.

Katie White, executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF, said: ’Nature is our ally in the fight against climate change. To protect it, we must drastically reduce the UK’s global environmental footprint, not least by ensuring we aren’t adding to the destruction of precious habitats like the Amazon and Cerrado.

‘The law proposed by UK government to stop deforestation isn’t yet robust enough and must be strengthened if it is to prevent further destruction of natural ecosystems – whether legal or illegal.

‘This must sit alongside a legally binding target to slash the UK’s global environmental footprint by 2030. Ministers have promised to protect nature and ensure a safe climate for future generations – we won’t forget should they fail to deliver.’

Based on this report, WWF is calling on the UK to strengthen due diligence measures in the UK’s flagship Environment Bill.

Photo by gryffyn m

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