The United Kingdom continues to import beef, soy, and palm oil products that are associated with deforestation.
Data has shown that the UK continues to import beef, soy, and palm oil products that contribute to deforestation, despite previous promises from the government to put an end to this practice.
Activists have voiced their disapproval of Defra’s lack of action in preventing the import of products from regions with significant deforestation. This is in spite of the government’s pledge at the Cop26 climate summit in 2021 to enforce such regulations.
The 2021 Environment Act implemented a restriction on utilizing goods obtained from illegally cleared land in other countries. However, this has not been put into effect due to Defra’s failure to release the list of commodities included in the regulation.
Zac Goldsmith, the previous minister of environment, stated that the Environment Act was celebrated with great excitement, partly to establish ourselves as a global leader at Cop26. The act was a significant step towards reducing illegal deforestation caused by commodity production in our supply chains. However, there has been little to no advancement since its passing and not one tropical tree has been preserved as a result.
It is crucial to understand that addressing climate change and preserving our species’ future is impossible without taking action to stop the destruction of our planet’s vital forests. The government must put an end to their delays and changes in direction and start taking action.
A study conducted by Global Witness and Trase revealed that the UK continues to import seven commodities that are linked to deforestation, such as palm oil, soy, and cattle products.
Out of the approximate total of 20,400 hectares (50,400 acres) of deforestation associated with UK imports from November 2021 to July 2023, approximately 8,800 hectares were connected to palm oil, 3,470 hectares to soy, and 2,950 hectares to cattle products.
The data provided by the researchers may be underestimated as it only considered unprocessed materials rather than finished goods that contained the specified components, for example, chocolate.
Advocates also stated that the UK’s policy is not as strong as the EU’s, as the EU’s policy addresses both deforestation and forest degradation. The UK’s ban only applies to deforestation that is deemed illegal.
Veronica Oakeshott, the leader of the Global Witness forest campaign, expressed concern over the government’s indecision on which commodities contribute to deforestation. During this period, tropical forests have continued to be cleared for agricultural purposes, with some of these products eventually being sold in the UK. This delay is causing suspicion over the origin of products consumed by the UK public, such as beef and palm oil used in personal care products.
She suggested that the government take into account the opinions of UK retailers and comply completely with the EU’s deforestation regulation, which applies to all commodities at risk of deforestation.
According to Oakeshott, it is unacceptable that Defra is not taking action to implement basic regulations that would prevent the import of forest destruction in the UK. If the UK wishes to be recognized as a leader in the fight against climate change, it must take immediate action.
A representative from Defra stated that most deforestation for commercial farming is done in disregard of laws in the countries where it occurs. This is why our Environment Act includes pioneering due diligence regulations to combat this unlawful practice and remove these products from UK stores. We will soon be outlining our next actions.
Our strategy involves collaborating with countries that produce goods and will strengthen their government’s efforts to promote sustainable use of forests and land.