Responsible Consumption and Production

New UK Law Proposal Aims to Tackle Deforestation

law on deforestation

The UK Government has announced a ‘world-leading’ legislative law on deforestation to help keep supply chains sustainable and protect rainforests across the globe.

According to their official press release published in August 2020, the new law on deforestation will prohibit UK businesses from using materials and resources grown on land that was illegally cleared, known as ‘deforesting’. Companies will be required to publish details on their supply chains and act diligently in ensuring that any produce essential to their business was grown legally and in accordance with environmental protection regulations.  

According to a BBC report, an estimated half of deforestation is illegal. Deforestation happens when land – often rainforest land – is cut down and cleared for the purpose of raising livestock and growing crops either for animal or human consumption. Deforestation destroys ecosystems and is a major cause of biodiversity loss. In addition, forests are vital carbon stores but when they are cleared, climate-heating emissions – such as carbon dioxide – are released into the atmosphere, which increases global warming.

80% of forest clearance is for the purpose of agriculture, and most deforestation practices across the planet are in fact illegal. British consumers contribute to the climate crisis by inadvertently increasing the demand for produce that is grown on deforested land, such as cocoa, soya, palm oil, beef, rubber and leather. By purchasing items containing these commodities, we are contributing to the problem of deforestation and, ultimately, climate change.  The legislation is expected to apply to products such as timber, palm oil, soy, rubber and cocoa, with businesses that fail to comply likely to be subjected to heavy fines. 

International Environment Minister, Lord Goldsmith, has said: “In every conceivable way we depend on the natural world around us. Protecting rainforests must be a core priority.”   You can read the official press release, and more about how the new law on deforestation connects to existing legislation and taskforce initiatives, on the Government website here. You can also learn more about how deforstation impacts Life on Land on our Learning Page for SDG 15! 

Posted by Claire Edwards 29 October 2020

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