New commodities law ‘not fit for purpose’

Campaigners say that plans to ban the purchase of illegally produced food and forest commodities will not be sufficient to tackle deforestation.

The government plans to introduce a new law to the Environment Bill which will make it illegal for UK businesses to source key commodities like cocoa, soya and palm oil if they have not been produced in line with local laws protecting forests and other natural ecosystems.

Environmental groups, however, say reliance on local laws risks missing the large volume of deforestation that occurs legally and is a leading cause of CO2 emissions.

Greenpeace said the announcement would do almost nothing to advance the global fight against deforestation. “For this new law to be fit for purpose, all deforestation, not just deforestation deemed illegal should be ruled out,” said Pat Venditti, Greenpeace UK campaigns director.

Greenpeace called for stronger sanctions to be imposed, such as bans on products entering the UK market if they can’t be proved to be free from deforestation and human rights abuses throughout the entire supply chain.

WWF said relying on local laws would not solve the growing problem of deforestation in the food we eat and things we buy. “The government has made welcome and significant steps, through the Global Resource Initiative (GRI), to achieve its ambition of tackling the UK’s global environmental footprint, but it is missing an opportunity here to respond ambitiously and strategically,” said chief executive Tanya Steele.

The government this week set out a series of measures to tackle the UK’s environmental footprint in response to a report from the GRI published in March that recommended actions the UK can take to green international supply chains.

Among them is a commitment to work with leading foodservice sector stakeholders to develop a sustainable foodservice sector action plan that will engage businesses on sustainable sourcing and help them comply with future changes in government buying standards and due diligence obligations.

The government said the package of measures would ensure that greater resilience, traceability and sustainability are built into the UK’s supply chains by working in partnership with other countries and supporting farmers to transition to more sustainable food and land use systems.

CEO of Tesco UK & ROI, Jason Tarry, welcomed the measures as “an important first step towards creating a level playing field in the UK”.

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