“It is my hope the Government can root-out the cause of illegal deforestation”

Neil Parish www.devonlive.com

NEIL PARISH IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR TIVERTON AND HONITON

As I write this, the Environment Bill is about to return for its remaining stages in the Commons. This landmark piece of legislation sets ambitious targets for protecting and revitalising our environment, both here in the UK and internationally. The Bill also presents a prime opportunity for the UK to tackle one of the key drivers of climate change: deforestation.

In 2020 alone, over 11,000 square kilometres of the Amazon were lost to deforestation, the highest in 12 years. That is nearly twice the size of Devon destroyed in a year. Illegal deforestation not only destroys precious rainforests, which act as vital carbon sinks and biodiversity hubs, but dismantles the lands and livelihoods of local communities and indigenous peoples.

The Government has taken bold steps to halt deforestation, including banning the use of certain materials associated with illegal deforestation and demanding larger companies carry out proper due diligence within their supply chains, ensuring they are not linked to illegal forest destruction. While commendable, I believe these measures should be strengthened, and I have tabled amendments to the Bill to do just that.

We must go further to ensure the Bill does not exclude the finance sector, who are in many cases bankrolling deforestation. Global Witness’s Money to Burn report found UK financial institutions, including many well-known high street banks, had invested £5 billion between 2013-2019 in companies that were found to have illegally deforested land. UK pension pots may well be being used to indirectly fund illegal deforestation.

My first amendment aims to cut this funding stream by barring lenders from providing financial services to enterprises that illegally deforest land. Banks, investment firms and pension trusts cannot be allowed to profit at the expense of irreplaceable rainforests and ecosystems.

We must also ensure the lands of indigenous communities are protected. Research has shown more people than ever were killed in 2019 for defending their homes against illegal land clearance. That is why I have tabled a further amendment aimed at ensuring the free, prior, and informed consent of affected indigenous peoples has been obtained, before businesses can fund enterprises which harvest materials from rainforests.

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference and the G7 summit fast approaching, the UK must show global leadership by bolstering our efforts against the degradation of unique forests, while ensuring the lands of indigenous peoples are properly protected. By adopting my amendments, it is my hope the Government can root-out the cause of illegal deforestation and safeguard our environment for generations to come.

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