The UK government appears to be taking its role as host of next year’s delayed COP26 seriously in its announcement of proposals for world-leading legislation to protect rainforests and prevent illegal deforestation. The proposal would make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use products in their supply chain which have been grown on land that was deforested illegally or otherwise in contravention of the laws of the origin nation. The goal is admirable and welcome in circumstances where deforestation makes significant contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions. A fundamental issue, however, is whether or not the reliance on the laws of origin nations is sufficient to protect against harmful deforestation which is on occasion legalised for local economic gain.
Aside from fundamental scope, the reality of implementation, both from a government and business perspective is complicated. Any such obligation will add to the already existing complex international supply chain due diligence required of companies. New structures and processes will undoubtedly need to be implemented. It is also unclear at this stage whether any new legislation will have sufficiently rigorous enforcement provisions to act as a true deterrent as the level of proposed fines and civil implications has not yet been determined.
The government’s consultation on the proposed legislation is open until 5 October and can be accessed here.