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UK Environment Bill - Joint NGO Briefing on Due Diligence and Deforestation

We welcome the UK government’s ambition to tackle the UK’s contribution to global deforestation, and we support the government’s proposal to establish a legal framework to address the environmental footprint of the UK’s consumption of forest risk commodities. Halting the global loss of forests and other natural ecosystems is essential for tackling the climate and nature emergencies we all face, as well as for preserving the capacity of the natural world to sustain our economies and well-being, and for protecting the human rights of the estimated 1.3 billion people who depend directly on forests for their livelihoods.

Read the full briefing here.

As the Dasgupta Review emphasises, we need nature to survive. Yet the demands we currently place on nature far exceed its capacity. The Review concludes that food production is the most significant driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss and that consumption and production patterns need to be fundamentally restructured and aligned with what nature can provide on a sustainable basis. We echo the Review’s urgent call for global leadership and ambition.

The Dasgupta Review’s urgent call for transformative change reflects the package of measures recommended by the (independent) Global Resource Initiative Taskforce (“GRI”) convened by the UK Government, which charts a new strategic direction to overcome the challenges of commodity-driven deforestation and land conversion. The GRI was unanimous that non-binding commitments and voluntary measures have made insufficient progress towards solving commodity-driven deforestation and land-conversion, and provided clear recommendations for a new approach. Key amongst these was the recommendation to urgently introduce a mandatory due diligence obligation on business and finance to ensure that: environmental and human rights risks and impacts in their supply chains, or linked to their lending and investments respectively, are analysed; action is taken to prevent or mitigate these risks and impacts; and information about these actions is reported to the public.

However, the current proposal, set out in Schedule 16 to the Environment Bill, needs improvement if it is to deliver on these recommendations and live up to the expectations of UK consumers and businesses. For the Government to deliver the ambitious leadership needed to tackle global deforestation, climate change, and biodiversity loss – at the G7, COP26, and other key events this year – Schedule 16 should be improved.

We therefore make the following recommendations to address the key shortcomings of Schedule 16 and to make it the world-leading legal framework we all need:

1. Address all deforestation, not just deforestation that is classified as ‘illegal’ under producer country laws.

2. Include protections for human rights, including customary tenure rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent.

3. Strengthen the review procedure and include a mechanism to progressively improve the framework, its implementation and enforcement.

4. Establish equivalent obligations for financial institutions.

(Cover photo via, creative commons licence)

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