The world's forests – the lungs of the planet – are under “huge pressure” due to the UK's appetite for commodities such as soya, cocoa, palm oil, beef and leather, MPs have warned.
The country's consumption intensity, when measured by its footprint per ton of products consumed, is higher than that of China, according to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report.
EAC President Philip Dunne said this should “serve as a wake-up call to the government”, adding that the UK's use had an “unsustainable impact on the planet”.
The committee has now released a 66-page report on Britain's contribution to tackling global challenges Elimination of ForestsWhich is deforestation or cutting down, and he also made a series of recommendations.
It comes after ministers announced that four commodities – livestock products (excluding dairy), cocoa, palm oil and soya – must be certified as “sustainable” if they are to be sold on UK markets.
The government, which plans to gradually add more products over time, has not yet announced when the legislation will be introduced.
The committee said it was concerned that the phased approach and lack of a timetable did not reflect the need to address deforestation urgently.
“Failing to include commodities such as maize, rubber and coffee within this scope does not demonstrate the level of urgency required to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030,” the report said.
The EAC called on the government to address these gaps and strengthen the current legislative framework so that companies are prevented from trading or using goods linked to deforestation.
The committee also said: “Forests host 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, support the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people, and provide vital ecosystem services to support local and global economies.
“Deforestation threatens irreplaceable biodiversity habitats and contributes 11% of global carbon emissions.”
She urged ministers to create a global footprint index so the public can see the impact of deforestation in the UK and a target can be set to reduce it.
The committee said there were concerns about how planned investments in nature and climate programs – including £1.5bn earmarked for deforestation – would be spent and called on ministers for greater clarity.
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“The government must act now.”
Alexandria Reid, from the NGO Global Witness, said: “The findings are clear: the UK will not reach net zero as UK banks continue to fuel, and benefit from, rampant deforestation in our climate-critical forests abroad.
“The government will not meet the global deadline to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 unless it acts now.”
Claire Oxborough, of Friends of the Earth, said: “The committee is right to highlight the many flaws in the government’s plans to reduce deforestation.
“Not least is the failure to include all high-risk commodities as part of the proposed new deforestation law, as well as the fact that it would only apply to illegal logging, which is difficult to define.”
A government spokesperson said: “The UK is leading the way globally with new legislation to tackle illegal deforestation to ensure we rid UK supply chains of products that contribute to the destruction of these vital habitats.
“This legislation has already been introduced through the Environment Act and is just one of many measures to halt and reverse forest loss globally.
“We are also investing in important international forest restoration programmes, which have averted more than 410,000 hectares of deforestation to date while supporting new green finance flows.”