MPs warn UK’s consumption pressures world’s forests

According to a committee of Members of Parliament, the country’s consumption intensity is greater than that of China, as measured by its footprint per tonne of product consumed. This, according to the committee, “should serve as a wake-up call to the government.”

Members of parliament have cautioned that the United Kingdom’s passion for commodities such as soy, cocoa, palm oil, cattle, and leather is exerting “enormous pressure” on the world’s forests, referred to as the “lungs of the planet.”

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report indicates that the nation’s consumption intensity is greater than China’s, as quantified by its footprint per tonne of product consumed.

EAC chair Philip Dunne stated that this should “serve as a wake-up call to the government” and added that the United Kingdom’s use has an “unsustainable impact on the planet.”

In addition to a series of recommendations, the committee has now published a 66-page report on the United Kingdom’s contribution to combating global deforestation, which is the removal or felling of forests.

It follows ministerial announcements requiring four commodities—cow products (excluding dairy), cocoa, palm oil, and soy—to be “sustainable”-certified to be sold in UK markets.

Deforestation Strategy: Urgent Action Required

The government, intending to incorporate an increasing number of products progressively, has not provided an official announcement regarding the specific date of legislation’s introduction.

Furthermore, the committee expressed concern that the phased approach and absence of a timeline fail to adequately emphasize the critical nature of addressing deforestation immediately.

The omission of commodities like coffee, maize, and rubber from this scope fails to demonstrate the urgency required to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, according to the report.

The EAC demanded that the government resolve these loopholes and fortify the current legislative structure to prohibit companies from trading or utilizing commodities associated with deforestation.

Forests provide essential ecosystem services to support local and global economies, house 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, and sustain the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people, according to the committee.

Deforestation endangers irreplaceable biodiverse habitats, contributing to 11% of global carbon emissions.

It urged ministers to develop a global footprint indicator so that the public can observe the impact of deforestation in the United Kingdom and set a reduction target.

The committee stated that there are concerns regarding the expenditure of planned investments in nature and climate programmes, including £1.5 billion designated for deforestation, and demanded that ministers provide more clarity.

“The government must act immediately”

Global Witness’ Alexandria Reid stated, “It is indisputable that the United Kingdom will not achieve net-zero emissions as long as British banks continue to finance and profit from the catastrophic deforestation of our climate-critical forests abroad.”

Without prompt action, the government will fail to meet the international objective of halting and reversing deforestation by 2030.

Friends of the Earth’s Clare Oxborrow stated, “The committee is correct in pointing out the numerous faults in the government’s plans to reduce deforestation.

Lastly, the omission of all high-risk commodities from the proposed new deforestation law and the notoriously difficult-to-determine limitation that it will only apply to illegal forestry.

Reaction of the authorities

“Britain is at the forefront of international efforts to combat illegal deforestation with new legislation that ensures UK supply chains are cleansed of products that contribute to the destruction of these vital habitats,” a government spokesperson said.

“Under the Environment Act, numerous measures have introduced to halt and reverse the global loss of forests.”

In addition to supporting new green finance streams, we are investing in substantial international programmes to restore forests, which have prevented the deforestation of more than 410,000 hectares to date.

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