Amendment 4

Part of Financial Services and Markets Bill - Report (1st Day) – in the House of Lords at 7:00 pm on 6 June 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Meacher Baroness Meacher Crossbench 7:00, 6 June 2023

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 91—this is a somewhat variegated group. The amendment was very ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and I am privileged to be asked to speak to it—it has widespread support across the political parties and within the public, as well as from key figures such as Sir Ian Cheshire and financial institutions representing no less than £1.18 trillion in assets under management and advice.

The UK is in the invidious position of being a leading financier of global deforestation and linked human rights abuses. This country provided an estimated $16.6 billion to businesses implicated in deforestation over five years to 2020. How many of us have money in pension funds contributing to the £300 billion of UK pension fund money supporting high deforestation risk companies and financial institutions? The Government claim that the answer to this problem—if you like—is the Taskforce on Nature-Related Financial Disclosures. However, the Government’s own expert Global Resource Initiative task force has already explicitly rejected the TNFD’s disclosure-based model as a solution. It has told the Government that new due diligence laws are needed to stop UK finance flowing to deforestation —and that is precisely what this amendment does.

I am aware of the noble Lord, Lord Field’s rather wonderful Cool Earth charity, which finances indigenous tribes in the great forests to retain the trees and live within them. Amendment 91 is vital to prevent all Cool Earth’s good work being undermined by UK financial institutions investing in high deforestation risk companies. The UK led the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use at COP 26, making a commitment to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030, including by realigning financial flows. This amendment begins to meet that commitment; surely, this should not be neglected. My only regret is that the amendment allows for a 24-month delay before due diligence obligations come into force to allow the sector to prepare—and, of course, I understand that sectors need to prepare. But this issue has been debated in Parliament for some months. I wonder how far the sector has reached in its preparations and whether it would support a reduced delay. How does such a delay fit with the view of experts that commodity-driven deforestation must end by 2025 at the latest to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade? A 24-month delay takes us right into 2025. I understand that agricultural expansion drives more than 90% of tropical deforestation. Again, the amendment is business friendly and widely supported, and I hope that the Government will support it and accept it.