With a bigger impact than China, the UK must act swiftly to stop the illegal clearing of forests

The negative impact of the UK’s consumption of goods on the world’s forests is higher than that of China.

This finding, measured in terms of footprint per tonne, is highlighted in the UK Government Environmental Audit Committee’s second report from its inquiry into sustainable timber and deforestation, entitled The UK’s contribution to tackling global deforestation, which was published in January.

EIA submitted evidence to the inquiry and we were pleased to see our evidence and concerns largely reflected in the report.

Oil palm plantation, East Kalimantan, Indonesia (c) EIA

But EIA Senior Forests Campaigner Sophie Bennett cautioned: “The revelation that the intensity of the UK’s consumption on the world’s forests is higher than China’s clearly demonstrates the UK’s impact on forests and the importance of swift action. “

One of the Environmental Audit Committee report’s key focuses was setting out recommendations for the Government in relation to Schedule 17 of the UK Environment Act, enacted in 2021.

The new legislation requires businesses in the UK to ensure the forest-risk products they use are not produced illegally.

However, more than two years later, secondary regulations which would bring this aspect of the act – Schedule 17 – into force are still lacking. And nearly three months on from the publication of the Environmental Audit Committee’s report, we are still awaiting the Government’s response to its recommendations, which was due on 4 March.

“EIA is concerned that the Government has neither responded to the report nor set a clear date for when it will publish secondary regulations,” added Bennett. “Both should happen as a matter of urgency.”

The report followed hot on the heels of the UK Government’s announcement in December 2023, which set out the initial details of the secondary regulations to the Environment Act – see our response. This included the list of forest-risk products that will be covered by the legislation – non-dairy cattle products (beef and leather), cocoa, palm oil and soy.

Beef cattle raised on cleared land in Brazil

While EIA, and the Environmental Audit Committee, welcomed the Government’s announcement of the anticipated content of the secondary regulations, we share a number of the Committee’s concerns on the Government’s plans. For example, the absence of the Government setting out how it will address human rights and finance institutions, both of which are crucial components in tackling deforestation and improving forest governance.

EIA has long called for the UK legislation to support processes which address land rights and conflicts.

Countries all around the world contribute to forest loss but, as this report shows, the UK’s role is crucial.

To show genuine global leadership, the UK must demonstrate domestic policy progress by laying secondary regulations to Schedule 17 of the Environment Act before Parliament and bringing it into force as soon as possible.


* The Environmental Audit Committee is a House of Commons Select Committee comprising cross-party MPs. Its remit is “to consider the extent to which the policies and programmes of Government departments and non-departmental public bodies contribute to environmental protection and sustainable development, and to audit their performance against sustainable development and environmental protection targets.”