Supermarket essentials will no longer be linked to illegal deforestation

Natural England

December 9
00:30 2023

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 worlds 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 worlds 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 worlds 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.

Its why we are cleaning up supply chains to make sure that big businesses in the UK arent 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 isnt just about saving rare species, its 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 worldstage. Welook 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 havent 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 governments determination to leave the environment in a better state for future generations and follows the UKs 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 showwhat 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 natures 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 andsustainabilityofthe UK fisheriesandseafoodsector. 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 Banks 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 UKs 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.

Todays announcements strengthens the UKs 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.

Further information

  • 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

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