UK: CSOs sign open letter calling on govt. to strengthen its proposal on due diligence requirements for forest risk commodities

“Open letter to the UK Prime Minister: Take action to protect the Amazon”, 6 September 2021

The Amazon is under unprecedented attack. Agricultural expansion is once again driving burning. 2021 has seen some of the worst fires in history, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the integrity of the Amazon biome and the survival of its Indigenous Peoples. In Brazil, the Congress is currently considering new legislation that would legalise illegal land grabbing in the Amazon.

The destruction of the Amazon has dire implications for global efforts to avoid dangerous climate change but there is much the UK can still do. On World Amazon Day, we are writing to you as a coalition of NGOs, Indigenous Peoples’ groups, scientists, and academics, to ask that your Government take urgent action.

In the Environment Bill, your government has proposed a legal framework to address the overseas deforestation footprint of the UK’s consumption of ‘forest risk commodities’ such as soy, beef, palm oil, cocoa, coffee and rubber. While a welcome step forward, this proposal has several major gaps that limit its potential, and does not align with the recommendations set out by the Global Resource Initiative.

We call on the Government to amend the Environment Bill to strengthen its proposal on due diligence requirements for forest risk commodities by:

  • ensuring that UK forest risk commodity supply chains are not complicit in any form of deforestation – not just deforestation which is defined as illegal under producer country laws;
  • addressing the role of UK finance in deforestation;
  • ensuring UK businesses act in accordance with the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities as set out under international law;
  • strengthening the review mechanism to ensure that the due diligence framework, its implementation, and enforcement are progressively improved;
  • adopting a requirement to introduce a target to significantly reduce the UK’s global environmental footprint by 2030.

(See annex for more detail)

Halting agricultural expansion into the world’s remaining forests and natural ecosystems is essential to meet the 1.5°C climate target, as well as to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. As the IPCC’s recent report makes clear, we are running out of time to prevent irreversible and dangerous climate change. This makes it even more important that world governments act now. Ahead of the UN climate conference in November, we need urgent action, not just warm words.

As President of COP26 and host of the conference, the UK has a unique opportunity to demonstrate global leadership and play an exceptionally important role in setting the global environmental agenda. The UK can also have a big impact as a major consumer and financier of forest risk commodities.

Given the dangerous legal reforms being pushed through the Brazilian Parliament and their dire implications for the future of the Amazon and its Indigenous Peoples, it is imperative that the UK Government reassesses its current approach and takes the bold action necessary. We are calling on your Government to make use of its world-leading position and take action to protect the Amazon and other climate-critical forests around the world…