Scientific groups and civil society call for the UK government to adopt ambitious act to stop deforestation

dezembro, 19 2022

A letter was sent to the UK Secretary of the Environment and demanded urgency in the implementation of the scope of the 2021 legislation
By WWF-Brasil 

Seventy-one Brazilian and international civil society organizations sent a letter on Saturday (17) to Thérèse Coffey, the United Kingdom Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, calling for the country to adopt more consistent and broad legislation to stop trade and financing of products associated with deforestation and conversion. The document was delivered during the COP15 Biodiversity held in Montreal, Canada.

The document addresses a British act approved in 2021 on the obligation of due diligence and eventual court proceedings of companies that market products associated with deforestation and conversion. It is known as The Environment Act. The organizations say they are concerned about the delay in enacting the regulations of this secondary legislation - and, thus, the effective onset of its implementation.

According to the letter, the UK Government must ensure that its due diligence regulation is genuinely a worldwide reference, covering a wide variety of inputs - not only soybean and palm oil but also beef, coffee, rubber, etc. - by expanding the scope to all deforested and conversion areas, in forests and other natural ecosystems, not only in natural habitats that have been illegally destroyed. It also calls for due diligence to be included in the financial sector to ensure that investments made by the British financial industry do not contribute to the destruction of natural ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and violations of the rights of indigenous and traditional peoples and communities.

Also, according to the letter, the regulation can further strengthen the Environment Act by including as many companies as possible in its scope and not relying on certification as proof of due diligence. The text also calls for incorporating other wooded ecosystems in the document, such as the Cerrado savannas, and guarantying protection to human and indigenous peoples' rights, such as the obligation to use Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC).

Another topic mentioned in the letter is the current standard recently approved by the European Union, which bars the import of products related to the deforestation of forest ecosystems anywhere in the world. This bill prohibits both illegal and legal deforestation, according to the legislation of the producing country.

"The EU bill is not perfect, but it represents a decisive step in preventing deforestation in EU supply chains, contributing significantly to reducing the EU's environmental footprint. It sends a strong signal to the market to raise its sustainability standards while facilitating compliance by global companies."

New Administration

The signatory organizations highlight that the next government of Brazil - in office from January 1, 2023 - has already signaled that it will resume monitoring and combating deforestation structures. Therefore, the scenario opens an opportunity to change the destruction curve in the country and strengthen sustainability initiatives in agribusiness.

"The UK's current plan to establish a formal partnership with the Brazilian government can maximize the impact and scale of the forest and land use agenda in the partnerships already established between the UK and Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. This regional coordination of Amazon governments can become an example of leadership," the letter says.

During Bolsonaro's administration, Cerrado deforestation has accrued an area of 33,444 km² - more extensive than the area of Wales. In the Amazon, 45,586 km² of forests were destroyed in the same period. Proportionally, the destruction of the Cerrado - which has already lost more than 50% of its original vegetation - is more accelerated (close to four times faster) than the Amazon since the Cerrado has a remaining area of vegetation more than two-thirds smaller than that of Amazon. Cerrado deforestation also recorded a worrying 25% jump between 2021 and 2022, reaching 10,689 km² in the last annual measurement. Indeed, it's a seven-year record.

"It Is essential that the UK government implement legislation that levels competition rules worldwide and establish conditions for companies operating in the UK market to meet their commitments and remain competitive as they implement the new EU rules in their operations," the letter states.
Read the full version of the letter here.