I am deeply concerned about the mass deforestation and land conversion taking place around the world – it is endangering millions of plant and animal species and risks exacerbating the climate crisis. In particular, the Amazon rainforest is our planet’s green lung and it is vital we protect it from destruction.
The WWF has highlighted that over a quarter of the UK’s overseas land footprint – nearly 6 million hectares – occurs in countries at high, or very high, risk of deforestation or land conversion.
I believe there must be urgent action to make sure that UK companies do not trade on the back of rainforest destruction. I think we must ensure that any goods placed on the UK market have fully traceable and transparent supply chains and do not cause adverse environmental and human rights impacts, including deforestation, forest degradation and ecosystem conversion and degradation.
In March 2020, the Global Resource Initiative Taskforce’s report put forward 14 recommendations of actions to reduce the climate and environment impacts of key UK supply chains. Following a consultation, the Government confirmed in November that it would bring in a ‘due diligence’ law, prohibiting UK businesses from using forest risk commodities if they have not been produced in line with local laws.
While I welcome these measures, I believe they should go further. I supported efforts by the Opposition to amend the Environment Bill at Committee Stage to require that legislation covers all environmental and human rights risks and addresses the impacts associated with the activities of specified bodies, including within business, finance and public authorities. Unfortunately, this was voted down by the Government.
At Report Stage, I supported important and meaningful amendments that would have tackled deforestation, due diligence requirements for the finance sector and the strengthening of protection for local communities and indigenous people. The Government did not accept these amendments.
More widely, I also voted for an Opposition amendment for a bold, ambitious tree planting strategy in England, as we need more trees and better protections to restore our most vulnerable habitats. However, this was voted down.
Despite this, I can assure you that my Opposition Colleagues and I will continue to support amendments that strengthen the Environment Bill at the remaining stages, including those that seek to preserve and restore our natural world.