Orangutans, leopards, jaguars and other endangered species protected with new legislation to safeguard forests
Palm oil, cocoa, beef, leather and soy are to be included in new legislation aimed at helping ensure the products we buy do not harm the world’s forests.
At COP28 Nature Day (9 December), the government will set out how these new laws will ensure that there is no place on our supermarket shelves for products which have been produced on land linked to illegal deforestation.
This move will protect the habitats of some of the world’s most precious and endangered species, including tigers and leopards. It will give British shoppers assurance that the goods they buy are not contributing to deforestation that violates the laws and regulations of the countries where they come from.
The biggest driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion, with an area the size of the UK ploughed up each year to meet UK demand for commodities.
It is a huge threat to rainforests, effectively the “lungs of the earth” because of their ability to absorb harmful gasses and provide a home to thousands of animal and plant species.
The legislation marks a step change from voluntary approaches already in place, protecting the future of the world’s forests that we need to help tackle climate change, and their wildlife-rich canopies.
Introduced through the world leading Environment Act, this legislation will see businesses that have a global annual turnover of over £50 million and use over 500 tonnes of regulated commodities a year banned from using them if sourced from land used illegally.
These businesses will also be required to undertake a due diligence exercise on their supply chains and to report on this exercise annually for transparency.
Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said:
I find it heart-rending to see the way illegal deforestation is destroying the habitats of tigers, jaguars, orangutans and many other endangered species, and I know many people across the world feel the same. Globally, we lose forests equivalent to the size of about 30 football pitches every minute.
It’s why we are cleaning up supply chains to make sure that big businesses in the UK aren’t responsible for illegal deforestation. It also means shoppers can be confident that the money they spend is part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
Through our work at COP28 on forests, food, and nature we are reversing the loss of biodiversity, increasing food security, and tackling climate change – safeguarding these critically important landscapes for generations to come.
Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:
Halting the decline of the natural world isn’t just about saving rare species, it’s about safeguarding the web of life upon which humanity depends for our food, water and economic security. On the pathway to tackling climate change we must go high nature at the same time as low carbon, creating bigger, better and more joined up places for nature to thrive.
The commitments outlined today are welcome further steps toward UK environmental leadership, both at home and on the world stage. We look forward to supporting the government in delivering results through practical action on the ground”.
Tanya Steele, CEO of the WWF said:
Nearly eight million hectares of primary forest has been lost globally in the last two years alone, so this is an important first step to getting illegal deforestation off UK shopping shelves.
However illegal deforestation is only part of the picture – with wildlife numbers plummeting and wild habitats facing destruction, we must stop felling forests, full stop. Forests absorb 30% of the carbon we emit from burning fossil fuels, so nature is clearly our greatest ally in tackling climate change.
We haven’t a moment to lose to bring our world back to life and these measures must be implemented in Parliament as swiftly as possible.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said:
Retailers welcome the announcement on UK Deforestation Due Diligence legislation. This will give confidence to British retailers and their customers alike, helping retailers meet their ambitious targets on deforestation and enable a greater supply of deforestation-free products in the UK.
Tackling deforestation requires global cooperation and we look forward to seeing further detail as to how the legislation will align with European proposals.
At COP28 in Dubai, the Environment Secretary will set out his priorities to restore forests, recover nature and create sustainable food systems, building on the ambitions set out by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak earlier during the conference. It is essential to the government’s determination to leave the environment in a better state for future generations and follows the UK’s leadership on nature at COP26 where the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use was signed by over 140 countries.
The UK government also played a central role in driving forward the global commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030. This takes a step forward today, with a new map published to show what areas could count in the delivery of “30by30”.
This indicative map illustrates that 8.5% of land in England – including Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Nature Reserves – already count toward the target, with a further 26.8% of land having the potential to contribute in the future, including Protected Landscapes.
The map has been published alongside the proposed criteria for contributions toward the target, and information on how this will be delivered through a voluntary, bottom-up approach. Work will now progress to identify further areas to contribute to the target, with additional guidance developed in collaboration with land managers and farmers.
Delivering on the 30by30 commitment for England will ensure our most important places, at the core of nature’s recovery, are protected for our iconic species to thrive.
The move comes as government announces further support for the UK marine environment, while continuing to support the long-term future and sustainability of the UK fisheries and seafood sector. To help support the conservation and restoration of the ocean, the UK is announcing £72.5 million in new programmes from its flagship Blue Planet Fund.
Further support for the marine environment includes:
- New funding to restore marine biodiversity: £60 million of investment for Ocean Community Empowerment and Nature (OCEAN), a seven-year competitive grants programme as part of the flagship £500 million Blue Planet Fund. The OCEAN Grant Programme offers a vital path to ocean recovery and for local communities and nature to thrive side by side. A further £12.5 million has been committed towards PROBLUE, the World Bank’s multi-donor trust fund, through the Blue Planet Fund to support the blue economy and sustainable ocean sectors in developing countries, including Small Island Developing States.
- Strengthened commitments to deliver Marine Net Gain: Following a consultation in 2022, the government will take forward proposals for Marine Net Gain in England– a policy that will ensure that infrastructure and development does not come at the cost of the marine environment, delivering measures to ensure that it is left in a better state than it was found
- Blue carbon habitat restoration: An additional £640,000 will be dedicated to support the vital restoration of iconic saltmarsh and seagrass habitats in England. Led by the Environment Agency, this fund will develop the UK Saltmarsh Code and increase the capacity of the Restoring Meadow, Marsh and Reef initiative.
This package builds on the UK’s commitment to safeguard our marine habitats, complimenting recent support for a moratorium on deep sea mining. This confirmed that the government will not sponsor or support any licenses for deep sea mining by the International Seabed Authority, unless and until there is sufficient scientific evidence about the potential impact on deep sea ecosystems.
Today’s announcements strengthens the UK’s leadership to address nature loss and tackle climate change.
The government has announced £15 million new funding to accelerate nature recovery across our most cherished Protected Landscapes, and a new Rainforest Strategy backed by £750,000 funding to protect the delicate and globally rare temperate rainforest habitats found across the Southwest and Cumbria.
As we mark one year on from the anniversary of the UN COP15 Summit in Montreal, the government is continuing to put nature recovery at the heart of climate change to further this legacy – protecting the environment for future generations.
- The government played a leading role in negotiating and securing the global deal for nature at the UN CO15 summit in Montreal. This leadership was critical in bringing together 196 countries in a joint, global commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and – through leadership of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature & People and the Global Ocean Alliance – to protect at least 30% of the land and of the ocean globally, with robust action underway to meet this target.
- The government has announced an additional £2 million funding for the global, market-led Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD) initiative which launched its framework in September. This will support capacity building and boost market adoption of the TNFD recommendations for nature-related risk management and disclosure. The TNFD recommendations enable businesses and financial institutions to report and act on their nature-related risks, impacts, dependencies, and opportunities, with the ultimate aim of supporting the realignment of global financial flows towards nature positive outcomes.
- At COP28, the UK will be hosting the 10 Point Plan for Financing Biodiversity Ministerial Stocktake. Here the government will launch the 10 Point Plan (10PP) stocktake dashboard – reviewing positive trends and direction of progress against the 10 points of the plan to ensure that finance flows towards nature recovery.
- Today we are launching the pilot of the Projects for Nature platform, a new pioneering partnership with the Council for Sustainable Business, Crowdfunder, and Accenture. This initiative will match corporate donations to nature recovery projects across England which are selected by Defra, Natural England and Environment Agency. It will link up businesses who have shown leadership in addressing their nature impact, such as Lloyd’s Banking Group and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, with nature recovery projects that best align with our domestic and international environmental commitments. To view the platform, visit: www.projectsfornature.com.
- We announced today that we will continue to support the work of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People through a new “Ocean Champion” role, whilst continuing our leadership of the Global Ocean Alliance. The two coalitions have also agreed to work in partnership supporting countries to implement 30by30.
- The UK has endorsed and joined a number of initiatives at COP28 which elevate the role of nature in global climate action. This includes: the Coral Reef Breakthrough, Mangrove Breakthrough Declaration, the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy Joint Declaration on Ocean and Climate action and joining the Mangrove Alliance for Climate initiative.
Forest Risk Commodities
- Between 2016 and 2018, WWF estimate that around 21 million hectares – an area almost the size of the UK – was required each year to meet UK demand for seven forest-risk commodities (FRCs) alone.
- The Forest Risk Commodities Scheme will be introduced through provisions in Schedule 17 of the Environment Act 2021. Secondary regulation to operationalise these provisions will be laid when parliamentary time allows. This new due diligence legislation requires regulated businesses to establish and implement a due diligence system for any regulated commodity, and any products derived from them, that they use in their UK commercial activities
- The full list of commodities in scope is as follows: Non-dairy Cattle products (beef and leather), cocoa, palm, and soy.
- Organisations using these commodities in UK supply chains with a global turnover of over £50m are in scope of the regulations.
- Organisations whose use of the regulated commodities does not exceed the annual volume threshold of 500 tonnes may submit an exemption.
- Legislation follows a consultation in 2021 on the implementation of the regulations. The consultation outcome informed policy decisions on the commodities in scope, thresholds and exemptions for businesses, enforcement of the regulations, a grace period and variable monetary penalties
- Organisations (whether in scope or as suppliers or service providers to organisations in scope) will have a grace period to prepare for regulation before the beginning of the first reporting period.
- Unlimited Variable Monetary Penalties will be in place as part of civil sanctions
- The government will work with landowners, farmers, land managers and wider partners to further develop our approach to delivering 30by30 in England.
- Following publication of the 30by30 map, we will work with these partners to finalise our 30by30 criteria and develop more detailed guidance by summer 2024.
- Contributions to the 30by30 target will be voluntary, and do not represent any new management requirements or designation.
- To view the 30by30 map and read the accompanying documents, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/delivering-30by30-on-land-in-england
Marine Net Gain:
- Marine Net Gain is an opportunity to leave our environment in a better place and to reverse the biodiversity decline/crisis in our seas. It compliments and builds on other policies but uniquely seeks to deliver a net gain improvement in the marine environment.
- We have published the Government Response to the consultation on the principles of Marine Net Gain, held in 2022. This applies in English waters only.
- Government has listened to feedback from the consultation and will now take forward the agreed high-level principles in the next phase of policy development. Decisions on the implementation approach for MNG, will be taken during the next phase of policy development following additional evidence collection, impact assessment and stakeholder engagement.
- We will seek to ensure that MNG is simple to follow and operates seamlessly with Biodiversity Net Gain which from January 2024 will apply above the low water line and on land. Where a new development straddles this line there will be no requirement to double up on net gain measures.
- The full government response can be seen here.
On blue carbon habitat restoration:
- The additional £640,000 will help drive investment flows from the private sector towards nature through the development of a Saltmarsh Code. This code will allow saltmarsh carbon to be marketed and traded as a carbon offset.
- This funding is for Phase 2 of the development of the UK Saltmarsh Code, the first phase (which ended in January 2023) was funded through Defra’s Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund.
- This funding will also create a pipeline of restoration projects in key estuarine and coastal habitats by increasing the capacity of the Restoring Meadow, Marsh and Reef initiative (ReMeMaRe).
- This funding will also improve the blue carbon evidence base, helping us to fill the gaps identified by the UK Blue Carbon Evidence Partnership’s Evidence Needs Statement (published in June 2023).
Source : Gov.UK