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Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2022

1. What steps he is taking to help ensure that international partners deliver on the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use commitments. (902028)

14. With reference to the Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, what recent steps he has taken with international partners to conserve forests. (902042)

Through the Glasgow leaders’ declaration, 145 countries, representing 90% of the world’s forests, committed to ending and reversing deforestation this decade, and we secured $20 billion of public and philanthropic finance to help them. We also secured a commitment from the world’s biggest traders to stop buying commodities grown on illegally deforested land. At COP27, the world leaders who made that pledge are gathering again to report back on progress and agree next steps.

The Environment Act 2021 was passed nearly a year ago, but we still do not have the necessary strong secondary legislation to regulate the use of forest-risk commodities in the UK. Ministers are yet to decide which commodities should be regulated, and under every one of their own scenarios the Government will not even manage to halve the UK’s deforestation footprint between now and 2030. With COP27 starting in just a few days, will the Government commit today to bring in regulations within a year that apply across all items that pose a risk to forests?

The hon. Lady raises an interesting point. I am new in post as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but I spent three years there working on such projects. I assure her that the protection of sustainable forests is key to this Government, which is why we continue to ensure that the £1.5 billion specifically earmarked for forests across the current international climate finance period will be honoured.

A lot of good work was done at COP26 by the then Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) and others to preserve the world’s forests. The decisions by south-east Asian nations to participate in the declaration were not easy, because livelihoods and the environment are closely allied issues in those countries. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirm that our Government remain committed to working with the countries of south-east Asia both to deliver on the declarations and to help them with tricky issues, such as palm oil and the sustainability of timber?

My hon. Friend is right to praise my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) for what he and, indeed, the UK Government as a whole did last year, but I also thank my hon. Friend for his steadfast efforts at rallying partners across south-east Asia behind global forest commitments in his capacity as trade envoy. He is right that south-east Asia is critical to this, recognising that it is home to some of the most vibrant forest landscapes on earth, and we will continue to work with partners in the area to protect the critical ecosystems while supporting local livelihoods.

It is disappointing that the COP President has not been allowed to answer questions today. I hope that Lula’s election victory in Brazil at the weekend heralds a new era in protecting the Amazon from deforestation. Globally, however, it seems that little progress has been made on the ground since the COP26 promises last year. We have also just heard that the UK has failed to pay out more than $300 million promised at COP to the green climate fund and the adaptation fund. Was the Prime Minister trying to avoid going to Sharm el-Sheikh because he is embarrassed that the UK has not delivered on all its promises?

I think the hon. Lady is being ungenerous. All our pledges are still in place, and she will recognise this Government’s work to bring partners together. We established the Forest & Climate Leaders’ Partnership to gather high-ambition partners together to accelerate efforts to reach our 2030 target to halt and reverse deforestation.

The COP President worked hard in his role and achieved some worthwhile results at Glasgow’s COP26 on commitments such as the declaration on forest and land use, and I commend him for that. I certainly do not think he deserved to be demoted from Cabinet, along with the Climate Minister, just weeks before his handover and at a time when sensible voices on the climate crisis are needed around the Cabinet table more than ever. Does the Secretary of State agree that the PM’s decision sets a poor example to other countries, let alone to us in the UK? Can she tell us who will be driving forward these important international commitments in the future?

Indeed, the Prime Minister will be taking the lead on this agenda. That is recognised because, as was announced earlier today, he is attending COP. The hon. Lady should be aware that this is about an implementation process. At the same time, I remind her that Government representatives are already attending COP and the Montreal protocol partnership. This leadership on forests and land use is an important recognition of how nature-based solutions are critical to achieving that, which is why many people from Government are making sure that we achieve net zero and are supporting global efforts.