Amendment 106

Part of Environment Bill - Report (4th Day) – in the House of Lords at 5:45 pm on 15 September 2021.

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Photo of Baroness Hayman of Ullock Baroness Hayman of Ullock Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:45, 15 September 2021

My Lords, we have been debating a number of amendments in this group that seek to strengthen Schedule 17. The first is Amendment 106 on forestry commodities, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. He has clearly explained what his amendment sets out to achieve and, importantly, why it is needed. His speech may have been longer than normal, but it was important to hear his words.

In the 25-year environment plan, the UK Government articulated an ambitious set of goals and actions, including that

“our consumption and impact on natural capital are sustainable, at home and overseas”.

Unfortunately, as in a number of other policy areas, the Environment Bill does not adequately deliver on this commitment.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, mentioned the concern that, if the Government do not address the full range of commodities driving global deforestation, this may undermine the purpose of Schedule 17, thereby falling well short of their global leadership aspirations. In Committee, it was discussed that the focus on forests and land conversion was a first step only and that wider environmental and human rights impacts must also be addressed. We must consider industries such as mining—and I thank the London Mining Network for its helpful briefing on this issue. The expansion of the mining frontier into forests is a significant driver of forest loss in some countries, so it is extremely concerning that mining with regard to deforestation has been omitted. Can the Minister explain to your Lordships’ House why this is the case?

It is also frustrating that the Bill addresses only illegal deforestation, as we have heard from a number of noble Lords who have spoken today. We know that all deforestation, whether legal or illegal, has the same potential negative ecological, climate, human rights and sustainability impacts. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, mentioned the work of WWF, which proposes the inclusion of a statutory deforestation target. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s thoughts on this proposal.

Amendments 107 and 108, also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, would, as we have heard, strengthen the review provision to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples are considered, that a consultation is held and that the Secretary of State takes steps to eliminate forest-risk commodities from UK commercial activities. We strongly support the noble Lord in these aims. He mentioned the report that came out this week from Global Witness about attacks, many of them fatal, on indigenous peoples. Those reports are truly shocking. This aspect of deforestation needs to be taken seriously into account and acted on. Will the Minister make a commitment to ensure that indigenous peoples are consulted as part of any review of the legislation? May I also make a suggestion to the Minister? COP 26 could provide an opportunity to meet with Brazilian indigenous communities to discuss the impact of logging, whether legal or illegal, on their livelihoods, communities and the climate. Is this something that the Minister would consider?

I turn to Amendments 108A, 108B and 108C, which were tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and to which I have added my name. These amendments look to bring forward the timescale for the review so that it takes place after one year, not two. I will not add anything else on this because the noble Baroness has explained passionately and in detail why this is so important.

In Committee, the Minister explained why he could not accept a similar amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, to that set down today by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. On the understanding that this is still the Minister’s position, which would be disappointing, and that the Government are not prepared to accept Amendment 106, I hope that the Minister will accept the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, so that the opportunity to extend the scheme to cover both legal and illegal activity can be enacted as soon as possible. As the noble Baroness said, it is far too important for us to hang about.

Finally, I look briefly at Amendment 121, on the duty to produce a global footprint target timetable. This is something that we strongly support. Again, however, the Bill has failed to deliver on a commitment in the 25-year environment plan, in this case to ensure that

“our consumption and impact on natural capital are sustainable, at home and overseas.”

This has been a good debate. These are serious issues and I look forward to hearing from the Minister.