Rainforests

– in the House of Lords at 2:49 pm on 15 June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Eden of Winton Lord Eden of Winton Conservative 2:49, 15 June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they are having with other governments and international organisations concerning the continuing and accelerating destruction of rainforests.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the Department for International Development is having discussions on deforestation with the United Nations Forum on Forests; within the European Union; with G8 countries; with those countries with which we have a bilateral aid programme; with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN; the World Bank; and with international research centres, including the Center for International Forestry Research and the World Agroforestry Centre.

Photo of Lord Eden of Winton Lord Eden of Winton Conservative

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her Answer, as far as it goes. But is she not aware that the destruction of the rainforest in Brazil has now reached its highest level for a decade and that similar pictures are emerging in Borneo and the Congo, where not only the vegetation but also the homes and livelihoods and, in some cases, the lives of indigenous people are being destroyed? If legal and illegal logging on this scale continues, the world will be faced with a major environmental and humanitarian catastrophe. Can the Minister assure the House that at the forthcoming G8 summit the Prime Minister will press for immediate action to bring these operations under control?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, I share the concern at the scale of what is happening expressed by the noble Lord. As the noble Lord mentioned, deforestation is a very serious problem in Brazil, which has lost around 18 per cent of its rainforest. As he said, it is also happening in other parts of the world.

Through our development programmes and our funding of the World Bank, the UN and other organisations, we are not seeking simply to arrest deforestation, but to work with developing country governments to form partnerships that will enable them to develop sustainability in the rainforest and ensure that the livelihoods of indigenous people are not destroyed. The noble Lord may be aware that, under our presidency, G8 environment and development Ministers met in Derby and, as result of that meeting, they are aiming to develop a strategy across the G8 on these matters over time.

Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Eden is probably the most serious international issue that the world has to face? Can she tell the House to what extent other countries are willing to co-operate?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, there is co-operation from other countries, both within the G8—as I mentioned, development and environment Ministers met in Derby—and in the context of our work within the United Nations and the World Bank. A number of countries are coming together to work with developing countries, and the European Union is working on forming partnerships with developing countries on these matters over time.

Photo of Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer Spokesperson in the Lords, Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

My Lords, is the Minister aware that satellite surveillance by Brazil brought this to international notice? Brazil is as anxious as anybody to do something about it. Can the Minister give priority to ensuring that the EU, which is intending to bring in a forest law enforcement, governance and trade licensing regulation, which will deal with illegal logging, is speeded up? Can she ensure that this country investigates and prosecutes all cases of illegally logged wood imported into the UK?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, we are playing an active role in implementing the EU forest law enforcement, governance and trade action plan—I am afraid that it has a rather lengthy heading. The EU will enter into partnership agreements with timber-producing countries and provide them with assistance to tackle illegal logging. The regulation mentioned by the noble Baroness will deny access to EU markets to illegally harvested timber. I take the noble Baroness's point about timing and we will continue to press for early resolution on this.

Photo of Lord Swinfen Lord Swinfen Conservative

My Lords, what is the position in this country? Are we setting a good example to the rest of the world and are we increasing the area of forestry rather than reducing it?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, we are of course doing everything we can domestically to follow our own guidelines. On the particular point about increasing the areas for forestry, I am afraid I do not have an answer, but I shall write to the noble Lord on the matter and put a copy of the letter in the Library.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

My Lords, will my noble friend point out to noble Lords opposite, who are reluctant to give credit to the European Union, the degree to which the European Union finances the co-ordination of activities to preserve the rainforests? Is it not the case that concerning the development of forestry in this country, we should all be following the lead of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who recently received £96,000 from the European Union for doing exactly that?

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, the noble Lord knows more about the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, who I see is not in his place, than I do. Regarding the European Union, I think that it should be congratulated. We hope by the end of 2005 to conclude the first of a series of partnership agreements between the EU and timber-producing countries, which I hope will make a significant difference.

Photo of Lord Willoughby de Broke Lord Willoughby de Broke Conservative Independent

My Lords, will the noble Baroness clarify her answer to the noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson? There are no such things as European grants—they simply recycle the money that we have already paid over to the European Union.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos President of the Council, Privy Council Office, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Lords (Privy Council Office)

My Lords, it is no surprise to me that in a Question which looks at deforestation across the world, we have somehow come full circle to talking about EU financing.