[Mr Philip Hollobone in the Chair]
Before we begin, I have some notices that Mr Speaker requires me to read out. I remind Members that they are expected to wear face coverings when they are not speaking in the debate, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. I also remind Members that they are asked by the House to have a covid lateral flow test twice a week if coming on to the parliamentary estate. This can be done either at the testing centre in the House or at home. Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated, and when entering and leaving the room.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered deforestation in the Amazon.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. One or two Members present will know that this is not the first debate that we have had on this subject in recent months, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to bring the issue back to the House. It was six months ago that we last debated the future of the Amazon here in Westminster Hall, so why bring the same issue back so quickly? The simple answer is that nothing shows any signs of changing. If anything, the situation is showing signs of worsening, despite the warm words at COP26.
We all know that the Amazon is one of the world’s most important ecosystems, if not the most important. It has been a vital carbon sink and is home to large numbers of indigenous people. Step by step, however, it is being destroyed. It is not the only place in the world where there is a major issue around deforestation, and Brazil is not the only country that faces similar challenges, that is taking controversial decisions or that faces illegal activity, but the reality is that the Amazon is the flagship of forests around the world, and it must be protected for the future.
For many years, it looked as though progress was being made. When I went to Brazil as a Minister and met Ministers there seven years ago, the level of deforestation was at its lowest for decades. It really did seem as though things were moving in the right direction, but I am afraid all that has now changed. Last year, deforestation was at its highest level for 20 years. Despite the Brazilian Government’s commitments at COP26 and the warm words, there is no sign of that ending. Land is being cleared every day for beef production, illegal logging, mining and urban development. Large areas continue to be burned each year to make way for land speculation, and vast numbers of the rarest species on Earth are being endangered as a result.
Why is it time for this House to debate this issue again, and for legislators here to send the strongest possible message to the Brazilians that deforestation must stop? The answer lies in two separate measures that are before the Brazilian Senate and due to be debated there again either later next month or in March. Both would have a further disastrous effect on the Amazon, and it is crucial that the Brazilian Senate steps in to take action to avoid the worst impacts of the legislation. The first measure would further legalise what have been illegal land grabs in the publicly owned part of the Amazon rainforest. The Brazilian Government control an area of the rainforest that is more than twice the size of France. Under Brazilian law, where logging is permitted on this land, it has to be carried out in a sustainable way. However, the reality is that over the years, there have been numerous illegal seizures and invasions of parts of that land, with huge areas being cleared for agriculture.
Brazilian law previously permitted the regularisation of such invasions that took place before 2011. Any subsequent invasion has been a criminal act, and the obligation is to restore the land to forest management, but the measures before the Brazilian Parliament are close to moving that deadline forward, from 2011 to 2017—six years later. That will effectively except a huge number of further illegal activities, and it will expose forest areas that are illegally occupied to further clearance. This will have the real-world effect of exposing of millions of hectares of forest to further clearance. The measure being considered also reduces the checks and balances on such occupation. In reality, this means that someone can claim responsibility for and ownership of an area without even being in that area. Environmental groups and researchers are warning that, in total, the measure could lead to the deforestation of up to 16,000 sq km of the Amazon over the next five years.
The second measure before the Brazilian Senate changes the country’s laws on environmental impact assessments, so that it will no longer be a requirement to analyse and mitigate indirect environmental impacts of a new project—the result being to make it much easier to build new roads through some of the most important areas of the Amazon. That leads to further deforestation, as it opens up previously inaccessible areas to illegal logging, mining and other activity that creates forest clearance. The evidence to support this looks incontrovertible to me; the research has demonstrated a clear link between road building and deforestation, with almost all previous deforestation taking place within 5.5 km of an official or unofficial road.
More worrying still, the measure creates an automatic self-licensing system, which allows applicants to self-declare that they will follow environmental standards, without any checks and balances to make sure that they do. There is a lot of support for small projects—that is probably reasonable—but not for big projects. They are the ones that lead to big impacts on the Amazon. For those major projects, it matters enormously. Taken together, these measures represent a clear and present danger to the future of the Amazon rainforest and its biodiversity.
COP26 may not have delivered all of the Government’s ambitions for tackling climate change, but it was notable for the general agreement to protect biodiversity and ecosystems. Some 141 countries, including Brazil, signed a declaration to work collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030, and over £20 billion of public and private funding was pledged to achieve that. The real question is whether those 141 countries, which control almost all of the world’s forests, will deliver on that commitment. The biggest question of all is whether the Brazilians, who control most of the world’s most important forest—the Amazon—will change course and act to prevent it from disappearing.
It is all very well countries having a commitment to end illegal deforestation by 2028 if they get there, but it is pretty pointless if it is preceded by five years of slash and burn—a wave of further deforestation that destroys tens of thousands more square miles of what is the world’s most important ecosystem. The evidence shows that clearing land for agriculture often only brings temporary benefits to agriculture anyway. Land in the Atlantic forest, which was Brazil’s other major forest, is now often degraded and of poor agricultural quality, so cutting down trees does not always create fertile land for the future.
I thank my right hon. Friend for giving way and for securing this debate. My argument with the Brazilians is twofold: not only is there deforestation, but, as my right hon. Friend was just saying, they are not actually making good use of the land when they farm it. Basically, they farm all of the fertility out of the land, then leave it and move on to other land. It is bad in all respects, not only for the environment, but for agriculture.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and he knows very well the world of agriculture. Smart land management could give Brazil a higher quality agricultural resource without chopping down the Amazon. That is what it needs to achieve.
This is an important moment for Parliament to send a message to our counterparts in the Brazilian Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on this issue. I hope the Chamber of Deputies will adopt any amendments that the Senate pushes through next month, and I hope the Senate, when looking at these issues in the next couple of months, will put in place safeguards to stop deforestation. Parliament can send a message to the Brazilian Government, who I know will be following this debate and will get a report back on it. We are a friendly nation and a friend that is not afraid to criticise when it is appropriate to do so, but there is a very strong view in this Parliament that this has to stop. The Brazilians need to be good citizens of the world. They have an asset they need to protect, and they need to do the right thing.
It is in the Brazilian Government’s interests to do so, because more and more countries and people around the world now see environmental protection as crucial for the future of the planet. What that means is that more and more decisions will be taken by consumers, investors and Governments that underline that necessity. A country that chooses not to follow the same path will, step by step, acquire pariah status. The UK has already legislated to ban forest risk products from illegal sources. Other countries are strengthening their legislation, too, and I think there will be more change on that front.
Major buyers of agricultural products are also having to review their supply chains to ensure that the purchases they make come from sustainable sources. Major retailers use earth observation data from satellites to track the origins of their purchases. Sustainable food labelling—something that I have championed in this House—will inevitably come, either through regulation or simply by the choice of the retailers themselves. Customers will choose not to buy products that come from unsustainable sources.
Then there is the investment issue. International investment institutions are under increased pressure from their investors to provide green investment routes and to walk away from those that are not sustainable. A number of pressure groups have highlighted major financial institutions that continue to fund projects in places such as the Amazon that damage the environment, and their investors are not going to put up with this for much longer. They are already under intense pressure to stop doing that. That pressure will grow and grow, and they will have to walk away from those projects. The reality is that countries that simply ignore international pressure to protect their own ecosystems will lose investment in the future.
Then there are trade agreements, which will increasingly require commitments on environmental improvements. I expect, and strongly support and urge the Government to consider, the introduction of punitive tariffs on forest risk products from countries that ignore international pressures and continue to destroy vital ecosystems. I say to Ministers: there can be no question of this Parliament backing a trade agreement with Brazil while extensive forest clearances in the Amazon continue. I urge them and the international community to set out detailed plans for how they will impose punitive tariffs on those forest risk products if countries where the risk of forest clearance is great do not take action to stop it happening. The commitments made in Glasgow must be met.
There will of course be those who argue that taking this kind of action in the western world will be pointless if the huge and growing Chinese market for agricultural produce remains in place and if the Chinese do not participate with similar measures. However, that is not a reason for us to stand aside, or not to send those messages and take the action we need to protect the world’s vital ecosystems. We all know, understand and deal with the economic issues and challenges that our nations face, but all countries, in all parts of the world, have to face up to the reality that over the next years we all have a duty to protect our ecosystems and our natural world.
My message to our Brazilians counterparts, in the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies and the Brazilian Government, is this. We know it is tough. We know there are economic challenges. We know that the easiest option is often the most straightforward one to take politically. But in the end, if we destroy ecosystems around the planet, humanity will all pay a terrible price, whether we are Brazilian, British, American, Chinese or whatever. The Amazon is probably the jewel in the crown among all our most important ecosystems. Our friends in Brazil have a historic duty to protect it. Too much of it has already been lost, but in the end Brazil will suffer if it is not protected, because there is a tide of opinion around the world that will punish any country that no longer protects its natural resources.
Brazil is a great country. It is a long-standing friend of the United Kingdom, and good friends are not afraid to tell the truth. I urge the Minister, her colleagues and the Foreign Secretary to do just that in their interactions. The deforestation of the Amazon is wrong and it must stop. There will be a dreadful price to pay, for Brazilians and all of us, if it does not stop.
The debate will last until 1 pm. I am obliged to call the Front Benchers no later than 12.27 pm, and the guideline limits are 10 minutes for the Scottish National party, 10 minutes for Her Majesty’s Opposition and 10 minutes for the Minister. Then Chris Grayling will have three minutes at the end of the debate to sum it up. Until 12.27 pm, it is time for Back-Bench contributions, and there are four very distinguished Back Benchers seeking to contribute, starting with Kerry McCarthy.
Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak, and happy new year to you; it is a pleasure to see you in the Chair.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on his persistence on this issue and on securing this debate. As he said, deforestation in the Amazon is a devastating emergency, not just in its impact on the climate but in terms of biodiversity. The Amazon is known as the lungs of the Earth because of its immense capacity for carbon storage, but it is now being reported that the Amazon may be a net emitter of carbon because of relentless deforestation. It is absolutely tragic that we have reached that stage. That deforestation is not just tacitly supported by the Bolsonaro regime, but driven by it.
With the conference of the parties to the convention on biological diversity set to meet this year in China, it is important to flag up the biodiversity issue. The Amazon is said to be home to 10% of the known species on Earth. The rainforest may also be home to tiny little frogs or other creatures that have not been discovered yet, but none the less add to the richness of life on Earth.
As has been said, the situation is getting worse. In 2021, deforestation in the Amazon rose by 22% to the highest level since 2006. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates that if current deforestation and degradation rates continue, about 40% of the Amazon rainforest will be lost by 2050. That process is primarily being driven by the clearing of land to grow commodities such as beef, soya for cattle food and palm oil, as well as by illegal logging.
It is a difficult call for developing countries when they have natural resources that could be exploited. I am very much in the “preserve our natural resources” camp rather than the “plunder them” camp. However, as we have seen in the past, for example with Ecuador and its Yasuní national park—it rivals the Galápagos for biodiversity, but there are mineral reserves in the park that could be exploited—if an impoverished country has the key to riches in its own backyard, it is difficult for a Government who seek to relieve poverty in that country.
We see the same thing with small island developing states or poorer coastal states. Do they exploit their marine environment, and allow overfishing and the plundering of what resources they have, or do they seek to protect it for future generations? I think that Mozambique is the best example of this situation at the moment. The country’s people could be totally lifted out of poverty because of the country’s fossil fuel reserves, but at the same time that would be a massive risk to biodiversity and in terms of the climate impact.
The UK Government could do more. The UK is the centre of green finance, but I think we could also do more to promote some of the mechanisms that are in place, for example with blue bonds, which carbon emitters can use for biodiversity offsetting to pay such countries, so that they do not have to exploit their natural reserves. I do not think that Brazil is quite in that camp, in that it is a wealthier country than some of those. Also, what is being done in Brazil is not being driven by commercial common sense. It is a rush for riches in the short term and, as the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) said, it is entirely counterproductive, because in the end they will just raze it to the ground and destroy any richness in the soil, and they will be in a position where they have destroyed all their natural assets.
We need to act. As the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell has said, because of public pressure and the growing horror at what Bolsonaro is doing, we are starting to see supermarkets, for example, saying that they will not sell meat that is linked to deforestation in the Amazon. I read an article recently about cheese that is indirectly linked to deforestation; it can be traced back through the supply chain to deforestation. It is good that supermarkets and consumers are acting.
As we are in Veganuary, people would expect me to talk about the way that consumers are choosing to reduce their meat consumption. Not everybody has to go vegan, obviously, but it would support sustainable farming in this country if people who were seeking to reduce their meat consumption sought to buy locally produced meat from sustainably reared animals, such as grass-fed animals—if they cannot go the whole hog by going vegan. It is not just about whether the beef comes from countries that are complicit in deforestation; it is about where the cattle feed and feed for other animals comes from.
I have mentioned what supermarkets, other corporates and consumers are doing. The Government also need to act, and the Environment Act 2021 was a wasted opportunity to act on deforestation. Its provisions cover only illegal deforestation, which ignores the fact that much overseas deforestation is in line with local laws. I know that the Act was not the property of the Minister’s Department, but I plead with her for the Government to think about strengthening those provisions on deforestation when the secondary legislation comes forward. The evidence is there that that must be done if the measures are to be at all effective.
It is not clear when the Government’s proposals will come into force. The consultation that was recently launched suggests that it could take up to four or five years to implement them if all key commodities are covered at once. That is hardly an urgent legislative solution. At COP26, Brazil itself set a slightly baffling target to end illegal deforestation by 2028—I say “slightly baffling” because we do not really know what that means. There is every chance that Brazil could just move the goalposts and make legal what is now illegal—what does it mean by legal deforestation? If the UK’s own provisions do not come into effect until 2026-27, that will not really help the situation in the Amazon in the meantime.
As we have heard, this year the Brazilian Senate will vote on legislation that would make it far easier to legally seize and deforest land in the Amazon, which is something that WWF has been warning about for months. The due diligence provisions in the Environment Act are an improvement, but they fall far short of what is needed. It is also worth noting that they are considerably less ambitious than what the European Union is doing. The EU’s proposals will cover supply chains linked to illegal and legal deforestation, so I do not see any reason why the UK cannot do the same.
The UK provisions fall far short of addressing links between UK financial institutions and deforestation. The Government refused, on Report, to support amendments to the Environment Bill that would have prevented UK financial institutions from funding firms linked to deforestation. I moved one of those amendments in the Environment Bill Committee. I simply do not see the justification for the Government’s refusal. Global Witness has estimated that HSBC made $5.1 million from supporting beef trading and producing activities at just three Brazilian agribusinesses in the last five years.
Although Government Members have expressed concern about Amazon deforestation, they have been silent about the recent Australian trade deal, despite Australia’s abysmal record on deforestation. It is actually the only developed nation on WWF’s list of global deforestation hotspots. We know that Australian beef farming has been directly linked to 13,500 hectares of deforestation since 2018, yet the UK has now signed a trade agreement to promote imports of Australian beef. Again, this is at the expense of UK farmers. I can see the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton nodding at that. This is something that we continually press. The whole point of Brexit and negotiating our own trade deals was meant to be to protect our own. Obviously, I was on the remain side; I did not really subscribe to that viewpoint. However, now that Brexit is a given, surely we should be protecting British farmers and not importing products when, in the process, we are complicit in supporting deforestation in other countries. We need consistency in our international approach to deforestation. We cannot sell out our principles in our desperation to sign trade deals.
It is not just the rainforest that is under threat in the Amazon; other natural ecosystems are rapidly being lost. Mangrove forests are being destroyed at a rate of 1.2% a year to make way for shrimp farms and tourist hotspots. Mangrove forests can store up to four times more carbon than rainforests and play an important part in climate adaptation, protecting coastlines and so on. They must be part of any effective conservation strategy. I suspect the Minister has not considered this, but will she speak to her colleagues about whether we can expand the list of forest risk commodities to cover shrimp, to avoid further mangrove destruction?
Finally, we have been here before. The New York declaration on forests—a similar agreement—was signed in 2014, but has done little to halt global deforestation. Given that we have the presidency of COP for the next year, now is the time to ensure that we bring in an agreement that achieves something.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for securing the debate.
I will concentrate on Brazil and the deforestation that has been going on there. I agree with my right hon. Friend that we are a critical friend of Brazil, but we need to be critical when an area twice the size of Devon was deforested last year alone. While the Brazilians are making good noises about COP26 and the environment, in practice that is not reflected on the ground.
Between 1990 and 2016, the world lost some 502,000 square miles of rainforest—an area larger than South Africa. In 2020 alone, over 11,000 sq km of the Amazon was lost to deforestation, which is the largest area in 12 years. As I said, that is twice the size of Devon. Between 2001 and 2018, Brazil lost almost 55 million hectares of tree cover, at a rate of 5.7 football pitches per minute. Deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon are at their highest in 15 years, and over the past 50 years forest coverage across the Amazon biome has declined by some 20%. There may be warm words, but the actions in Brazil do not show them.
In July 2021, scientists confirmed that the Amazon is a net producer of CO2, emitting more carbon dioxide than it absorbs, as the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) said. We can all work on a cross-party basis to bring about pressure to correct the situation in Brazil.
The importance of the Amazon has been stated before. The Amazon alone contains some 90 billion to 140 billion metric tonnes of carbon. It is significantly more effective to maintain the current tree cover than to replant forests retrospectively. A tree in the Amazon rainforest probably holds as much carbon as two or three trees in this country just because of the rate of growth.
Forests hold 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. They support complex ecosystems such as plant life, animals, soils, bacteria and fungi. They also support our food supply system by ensuring that we have enough pollinators as well as providing pest control. The Amazon holds at least 10% of the world’s biodiversity and accounts for 15% of total river discharge into the oceans. Forest degradation can lead to catastrophic impacts, including increased soil erosion, disruption of water cycles, loss of habitat for endangered animals and increased greenhouse gases. Because the Amazon carries around 15% of the world’s freshwater into the sea, it probably has an impact on the salt in the sea overall.
Forests are home to communities and indigenous people. The Amazon is home to some 34 million people, including almost 3 million indigenous people. Half the Amazon basin is covered by protected areas and indigenous territories. Over 100 communities live in voluntary isolation. Illegal deforestation destroys communities, homes, livelihoods, culture and a way of life. Land that is the ancestral and sovereign right of indigenous communities is being taken by violent force, driven by consumer demand for widely used commodities. A Global Witness report entitled “Last Line of Defence” stated that 227 lethal attacks were carried out on land defenders in 2020—an average of more than four people a week—making this
“the most dangerous year on record for people defending their homes, land and livelihoods, and the ecosystems vital for biodiversity and the climate.”
I welcome the action taken by the UK Government in the Environment Act 2021. The Government have introduced a law that prohibits the use of certain commodities associated with illegal deforestation, and they have placed a requirement on large companies to undertake due diligence and reporting on their supply chains. That will prohibit the use of forest risk commodities within the UK market and encourage other nations to carry out proper due diligence when sourcing materials. We need only look at major importers of cereal into this country, such as Cargill, to know that much of the soya comes from Brazil. We need to question exactly where it has come from. Has it come from land that has been illegally deforested? The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is carrying out a consultation on secondary provisions that will run until March this year, which is an opportunity to strengthen the Environment Act to ensure that institutions cannot profit from illegal deforestation.
Agrifood expansion continues to drive deforestation in the Amazon. It is the main driver of deforestation, forest degradation and the associated loss of biodiversity. Large-scale commercial agriculture, primarily cattle ranching and the cultivation of soya bean and palm oil, accounted for 40% of tropical deforestation between 2000 and 2010, and local subsistence accounted for another 33%. A Global Witness report from October 2020, entitled “Beef, Banks and the Brazilian Amazon”, found that Brazil’s three largest beef companies were linked to tens of thousands of hectares of illegal deforestation, despite auditors saying otherwise. Over three years,
“beef giants JBS, Marfrig and Minerva bought cattle from a combined 379 ranches containing 20,000 football fields worth of illegal deforestation”.
A study in the Science journal states that
“roughly 20% of soya exports and at least 17% of beef exports”
“may be contaminated with illegal deforestation.”
The Bolsonaro Administration are in the process of implementing legislation that will legalise deforestation on public land for agricultural practices that has taken place since 2017. If granted a land title, businesses that have invaded land will be allowed to deforest public land and sell it for high profits. I say to the Brazilian Government that if they are really mindful that they will stop deforestation, such laws go completely in the opposite direction.
Financial institutions continue to hold the purse strings for illegal deforesting activity. The 2019 Global Witness report entitled “Money to Burn” found that more than 300 banks and investors had provided some $44 billion of finance to six of the world’s worst deforesters over the previous six years. It found that major financial institutions, such as HSBC, Santander and Barclays, have investments in agribusinesses that continue to carry out large-scale illegal deforestation. The investments and pensions of UK consumers may well be being used to fund deforestation.
A further 2021 Global Witness report, “Deforestation Dividends”, has found that financial institutions are bankrolling and profiting from agribusinesses that are destroying rainforest and forest habitats across the globe. Banks and asset management companies based in the EU, UK, US and China have invested $157 billion into firms accused of destroying rainforests in Brazil, south-east Asia and Africa since the Paris climate agreement. Global financial institutions including Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, BNP Paribas, Rabobank and Bank of China have profited by some $1.74 billion in interest, dividends and fees from financing agribusinesses that carry out the most deforestation.
At a recent sitting of the Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister stated that more than 40 banks have signed up to the voluntary Glasgow declaration on forests and land use at COP26, which he said included Barclays and Aviva. However, no high street bank has, as yet, signed up to the agreement. I urge the Minister and the Government to put pressure on our banks to stop funding illegal deforestation. There is much we can do. If we can starve these major companies of credit, we can stop much of the deforestation.
Finally, I repeat that as we talk and trade with Brazil in the future, we must be absolutely certain that it has put its house in order. There must be no illegal deforestation, and the indigenous populations must not face having their land destroyed or taken from them, or, even worse, being killed. This debate is timely. I have used some strong language today, but I think it is important to highlight the current situation. I hope that it will improve in future, not only for the environment and agriculture, but for those indigenous people who are suffering.
Thank you for permitting me to speak, Mr Hollobone. I also thank the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for leading today’s debate—one of the first in Westminster Hall since the Christmas and new year break. I am very pleased to be back to some sort of normality in Westminster.
I spoke in the debate on deforestation in the Amazon last June, to which the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell referred, in the hope that the situation would be more positive in the months to come. However, he is correct: we have not seen much of that positivity seven months later, which is disappointing.
The stories in the press showing the removal and cutting of trees are real. We see them on TV nearly every week. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) referred to the size of the trees. I have large trees on my land—the hon. Gentleman probably has gigantic trees on his land, too—but the ones in the Amazon rainforest are three times the height of the biggest ones on my land. Those trees have a circumference way beyond our imagination, which tells us how long they have been there and the importance that they have. The deforestation is shocking and worrying.
When we discuss deforestation, we must remember the importance that trees have for our world. We all understand that. I am not a tree-hugger, but I love trees. I have planted some 3,500 on my land. That is nothing to the extent of the trees in the Amazon, but I do it because I understand the importance of having trees where the opportunity arises. They are often overlooked, and we forget that trees are needed for everyone’s most basic function: to breathe. Trees remove excess carbon dioxide from our atmosphere through photosynthesis. Trees are also essential in combatting climate change and providing sustainable habitats for the 3 million species that live in the Amazon rainforest.
I was introduced to Brazil and the Amazon rainforest some 40 years ago by the missionaries of my Baptist church in Newtownards. They had worked in the rainforest and they used to tell us stories from there; Sadie Grant is still a missionary out there. At that time, the rainforest was in abundance. It was buzzing with life; the trees were still there. Look at the map today.
As has been mentioned—I am pretty sure those who speak after me will refer to this, too—the map illustrates that wide swathes of rainforest have been removed. That has been described as catastrophic, and it is. We can see the destruction just from looking at the map. This is not just about the destruction of the trees, but about the impact on the animals there, which is certainly something that I have noticed in the TV programmes that I have watched and in media stories. Those animals have lost their habitats, and the impact on threatened species cannot be ignored.
Although the debate is about the deforestation in the Amazon, I will take a minute to highlight some figures closer to home. Forest conservation is crucial not only in the Amazon but globally. It saddens me to say that Northern Ireland is the second most deforested part of Europe. The Woodland Trust has stated that UK forests currently cover 12% of the land area, which is very low compared with some of our European neighbours. France and Germany, to name but two, have forest cover of 29% and 32% respectively, and forest cover makes up 47% of Europe’s total land area. We have a lot to do here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to address that issue. The UK is seriously lagging behind and must improve.
Recent data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research shows that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest has hit a 15-year high. That is backed up by the media and pictorial coverage, and by the evidence base that we have all mentioned. The institute found that some 13,235 sq km—or 8,224 square miles—of forest was lost in the short period between August 2020 and July 2021. Wow! Those astonishing figures give an idea of the magnitude of what is happening, and really emphasise the damage that the Amazon faces, as well as the lack of action.
I have every respect for the Minister, but I look to her to step up the pressure. We must use all tools at our disposal to bring a stop to continuous deforestation throughout the world. I very much look forward to hearing the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), whose comments are always constructive and helpful. He will capture in his own way what we are all saying.
The knock-on impact that deforestation is having on our planet is serious. Whether we are pro-environmentalism or sceptical of it, the proof is there in those devastating figures on the level of destruction. Deforestation in the Amazon has damaged habitats, diminished our levels of biodiversity and food sources, degraded soil, polluted rivers and lands, and affected overall productivity for the people and animals who live there.
I echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton: the indigenous tribes in the Amazon need protection, whether through an alternative in employment or through help for them to survive. They do not see deforestation as a means of income, and that must take priority, because people have to eat and survive. That consideration has to be part of the future.
I receive many emails from my constituents, who are all too often concerned about the impacts of deforestation on our planet. I urge the Minister and the Department not to let the problem get out of control. In the heart of Brazil, what was once a wonder of the world that we all appreciated and loved is being destroyed further every hour. Others have referred to areas the size of football pitches being removed in a minute. The Amazon is invaluable to our ecosystem—not just for Brazil, but for the whole world—and deforestation threatens the 30 million people who reside there.
I welcome the Government’s commitments and the achievements reached at COP26, but we need more than words. I would like to see a wee bit more action, because we perhaps do not see action in the way that we should. COP26 gave us a lot of encouragement and a united spurt the world over in how we deal with these issues, but we have to move beyond words and into action. Again, I wish—as we all do—to see that action and how it can be delivered.
The UK has previously set out plans to introduce a new law clamping down on illegal deforestation and protecting rainforests by cleaning up the UK’s supply chain. Again, I urge the Government, the Minister and relevant Departments to stick to those plans. Perhaps, in response to this debate, the Minister will be able to give us some indication of where they are on that.
I will conclude with this. As I stated in the previous debate and I reiterate once again, we can only do so much ourselves; we must and, I believe, do encourage Brazil to stop the deforestation through gentle persuasion. We are a critical friend. We need Brazil, on behalf of us all—on behalf of itself and of the world—to realise the benefits of protecting our world’s most beautiful forest, and the Amazon rainforest is the most beautiful.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on his persistence in bringing this issue before the House again. He is absolutely right to do so, because it really matters. But there should be a small note of humility from us, in this country, when raising this issue, as far as Brazil and other South American countries are concerned: we should remember that only about 13% of the UK is covered in woods and forests. It is not as if we are in a neighbourhood where we cannot grow trees happily, because the figure is 44% in Europe as a whole. Obviously, it is true that we cut down many of our trees many years ago when we did not know the science and were not as well educated as we are today, but I think it is worth just putting it on the record that we have a lot to do here in our own country. I know that many of us are absolutely passionate about that and are pressing the Government to keep going with what they are doing in that area.
We are right to be here today to press the Brazilian Government and others to do more, because the fate of the Amazon quite literally guides the fate of our planet. The Amazon is a global resource, which is why, as Members of Parliament here in the United Kingdom, we are having this debate today. It has global impact, and we know that globally the situation is pretty catastrophic.
In the last 60 years, more than half of the tropical forests worldwide have been destroyed. That is an appalling record. Given what we know today, to hear from the Chairman of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), that 5.7 football pitches’ worth of trees are being cut down in the Amazon every minute means that the alarm bells should be ringing here and all over the world.
Let us look at what the Government have done so far. They have not been idle on this issue. They recognise it. It was, after all, the Prime Minister who, in the run-up to COP, spoke memorably about
“coal, cars, cash and trees”.
Those broad headings are a very easy way to remember what we need to be doing at the moment, and trees are vital. That is why the Government’s leadership on the Global Resource Initiative taskforce was welcome and absolutely right. It was why what we did in the Environment Act with the due diligence law on illegal deforestation—I will say a bit more on the other part of that shortly—was also right. That, I think, is world leading and a major advance. We can push to go further, but we should welcome it. Lastly, the Glasgow leaders’ declaration on forests and land use was also very welcome. That was signed up to by 141 countries, which cover 90% of the world’s forests.
All that is good, but we need to do more, and I want to mention four areas where I think we can make progress. They have been mentioned before, but it is necessary to stress how important they are. The first is the financial backing for illegal deforestation. The bank that I bank with was mentioned by the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee; I will be writing a letter to the managing director of that particular bank today on the basis of what my hon. Friend has told me. I do not want to leave that bank; it is a great bank—a great British bank. I am not going to name it here, but it was one of the three household—high street—banks that my hon. Friend named and I expect it to do better.
I want my bank to know that, as one of its customers, I am not happy with what it is doing here. There is a particular issue around audit and the audit trail globally; I think it was the hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) who said that some of the auditors were saying this was fine. There are problems: whether it is polysilicon in Xinjiang and solar panels or exactly what has happened to part of the Amazon rainforest, it is difficult for us to be absolutely sure. We need to think more about how we can ensure proper compliance with standards that we are all happy with. However, first of all, banks and financial institutions absolutely must do better.
Secondly, on legal and illegal deforestation, all deforestation should concern us greatly. One brief I read said that around 50% of deforestation is apparently legal. That is not good enough. We need to go further down that route. I respect the difficulties of drafting legislation to do something about that, and I know the Government have wrestled with the issue. It is an issue that we need to keep reminding the Government about. A great first step has been taken on illegal deforestation, but there is more to be done.
Thirdly, we must make sure that the very good commitments at COP26 from those 141 countries are actually enforced; unfortunately there is precedent of previous declarations—the New York declaration on forests, for example—having great-sounding words that are not followed through into action. Specifically, we must clarify what to “halt” and “reverse” forest loss actually means. If it is possible under that definition to destroy pristine rainforest and replace it with a commercial timber or palm oil plantation and claim there has been no net loss of forest cover, the agreement is simply not worth the paper it is written on. We know from other parts of the world where that has happened that there is a massive difference in the amount of carbon sequestered and biodiversity loss from palm oil plantations, for example, compared with pristine rainforest. There is more to do to drill down into the detail. It would be helpful if the Minister could explain how enforcement of the COP declaration will work.
My main point is about what every one of us can do as consumers. I have no problem in holding my Government, of whom I am very proud, to account on areas where I want them to go further and faster and where they need a little encouragement. However, we all have power as consumers. When we do our weekly shop, we can make choices about what goes into our shopping trolley. I think very few of our constituents do not care deeply about this issue. When my constituents in Leighton Buzzard, Linslade, Dunstable and Houghton Regis go to the supermarket, I want them to be absolutely certain that what they put in their shopping trollies week by week is not contributing to this problem.
The parallel I draw is with what the Fairtrade Foundation did many years ago. I am extremely proud that Leighton Buzzard was the first town in Bedfordshire to get Fairtrade status. People got it, because they wanted the people producing their food to be properly looked after and fairly paid. The Fairtrade Foundation is a respected global institution; when we see its logo on something, we buy with confidence because we know that people are being respected.
I have a little challenge to the likes of the World Wildlife Foundation, which sent an excellent brief for today’s debate—I have not raised this with it, so it may be a bit surprised that I am teeing it up to take on this work. Where is the global equivalent of the Fairtrade Foundation logo, so that when we go to a supermarket we absolutely know that what we buy is not contributing to deforestation? We have talked about the problems of auditing and making absolutely sure, but we could put it the other way and say that, unless someone can categorically prove to us that a product has not contributed to deforestation, they do not get the logo. It is very simple. Make the onus the other way around—“You come to us and prove it, and if you do that to our satisfaction, we will then give you the logo”, and people will buy. I do not know whether I am missing something here, but I do not know why that idea has not got legs and had more mileage. I would love to discuss it with colleagues to see whether we could take that forward.
Consumer power is significant. Governments can do a great deal—I would not be a Member of this House if I did not believe in the power of what Government can do—but they are not the only means of taking action. We can write to our banks and we can choose what we put in our shopping trolleys if we know what is good and what is not. I challenge the World Wildlife Fund and others to think of replicating the excellent work done by the Fairtrade Foundation.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I thank the previous speakers, who have all brought insightful points to this debate, and I thank the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for securing it.
When we last debated this subject in June, I noted that it had been two years since we had previously discussed deforestation in the Amazon. I concluded by saying that I did not want to be speaking about
“further reports of increasing rates of deforestation, logging, resource mining, tree burning for farming and cattle-raising, or…land seizures from indigenous people.”—[Official Report, 23 June 2021; Vol. 697, c. 384WH.]
Yet here we are, rather depressingly, less than seven months on from the last debate: tragically, it appears that global efforts to combat deforestation in the Amazon have not been strong enough and that the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil has continued to act with impunity.
Last month the Brazilian Government said that they wanted to end illegal deforestation by 2028. In September, President Bolsonaro told the United Nations—I quote without irony:
“No country in the world has a more complete environmental legislation than ours.”
Despite such bold statements, deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has jumped by 22% in the last 12 months alone, reaching its highest level since 2006. The Brazilian research institute, Imazon, found that between August 2020 and July last year the Brazilian Amazon rainforest lost nearly 10,500 sq km—roughly the same area as the island of Jamaica. The simple fact is that deforestation has accelerated since President Bolsonaro took office in January 2019. Marcio Astrini from the Climate Observatory was damning in his remarks:
“We are seeing the Amazon rainforest being destroyed by a government which made environmental destruction its public policy.”
Exact figures are not available, but recent studies suggest that as much as 94% of deforestation and habitat destruction in Brazil could be illegal—that is more than nine tenths. Despite that, Bolsonaro has cut funding for the agencies responsible for prosecuting the farmers and loggers who break environmental law. Fines for illegal logging fell by more than a fifth in 2020 alone. There is potential for worse yet to come, as has previously been mentioned.
This year the Brazilian Senate will vote on two Bills, which could contribute enormously to increased deforestation and violence against indigenous peoples, particularly in the Amazon. If approved, the Bills will legalise land grabbing in public forests, inducing further deforestation; will weaken the existing verification of land titling mechanisms, which exist to prevent fraud; and will legalise a land-grabbing economy. The Bills will weaken the control over deforestation through the construction or improvement of roads that cross well-preserved forest regions. High-impact projects will be installed without environmental assessment, and they will allow automatic licensing of most projects, including mining and road improvement.
Problematically for the UK and the wider international community, the legalisation of deforestation has the potential to hinder their actions to prevent deforestation. For example, as has been mentioned, the UK Government’s commendable Environment Act 2021, passed in November, includes an obligation for firms to conduct due diligence to determine whether they can use commodities from areas that have been illegally deforested. It does not, however, take account of countries such as Brazil legalising illegal deforestation and therefore does not do enough to remove deforestation from supply chains. It is therefore vital that the UK Government make their opposition to the actions of the Brazilian Government clear and strengthen their own legislation if the proposals come to pass. The actions of the Bolsonaro regime must be met with international condemnation, and he must be held to account for his country’s international commitments. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Brazilian Government have been widely criticised for sending a delegation to COP26—I had the privilege to spend two weeks there in Glasgow—fully aware of their recent deforestation data, despite attempting to hide it. President Bolsonaro did not attend the summit; Brazil’s top climate diplomat, Paulino de Carvalho Neto, told Sky News—wait for it—that the President
“had other things to do.”
Furthermore, the land grabbing and environmental licensing Bills will lead Brazil in the opposite direction of pledges made at COP26, and will make it harder—if not impossible—to battle deforestation in the coming years. There are therefore deep and widespread concerns that the Brazilian Government cannot be regarded as an actor in good faith by the international community when it comes to deforestation. The consequences of the continued abuse of the Amazon will have a direct impact on the ability of all countries to tackle climate change. As a result, this is a matter of species survival and potential mass extinction over our entire planet. That is not something that we say easily in any debate, but it is now a matter of fact, not conjecture. Shockingly, the Amazon rainforest now emits more carbon than it absorbs. Scientists recently warned that it will reach an irreversible tipping point—some estimate within five years—beyond which it will not generate enough rain to support itself. This would be an unprecedented climate catastrophe that affected all living beings on Earth.
To briefly recap on previous debates, the Amazon rainforest is invaluable to the environment, producing as much as 20% of the world’s oxygen and acting as natural carbon capture for vast amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Deforestation threatens the 30 million people who live there, including up to 400 indigenous groups, and many thousands of plant and animal species. It also threatens to fundamentally hinder attempts to tackle climate change, reversing any progress made so far and contributing to rising global temperatures, with all the devastation that this will bring.
If we are really serious about the climate emergency, we must use every tool available to us to ensure that we lead the international effort to end destructive deforestation in the Amazon and put pressure on Bolsonaro’s Government in Brazil. COP26 and the Osaka summit clarified Brazil’s obligations, and there should be diplomatic and economic consequences if Brazil chooses not to meet them. Exports of illegally cut logs must be cracked down on multilaterally. Rules of origin regulations must be looked at for any resources generated by habitat destruction. Furthermore, trade agreements should not be concluded outside a legal framework that enforces the agreements made at COP26 and elsewhere. Many EU states have threatened to dissolve the EU-Mercosur trade agreement if Brazil fails to live up to its commitments to tackle emissions and ensure protection for the Amazon rainforest, which is the key natural asset in tackling climate change.
Of course, deforestation is a global problem. The UN says that 1 billion acres of forest have been lost worldwide since 1990. At COP26, more than 100 world leaders promised to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Brazil’s Government is not the only organisation responsible for deforestation; others must do more. Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation, but other sectors, such as the fashion industry, must look at becoming more sustainable. It is not just the banks, which have been mentioned; a recent report called out popular fashion brands, such as Prada, H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike and Fendi, for having multiple connections to an industry that props up deforestation. I hope that their chief executive officers and customers are listening to today’s debate.
Others countries also have deforestation problems. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, which contains the Congo forest basin—the second-largest rainforest in the world—nearly half a million hectares of primary forest have been lost annually in the past five years, and the Government have announced a plan to lift the ban on new logging operations, which dates back to 2002. In Indonesia, however, there is a positive story. President Joko Widodo pledged in 2014 to crack down on deforestation by tackling the main contributor: land for palm oil plantations. In 2016, a record 929,000 hectares of forest disappeared, but there has been a steady decrease in the rate of deforestation since then, and by 2020, the loss was down to 270,000 hectares. Just a year before, in 2019, President Widodo issued a three-year moratorium on forest clearance covering about 66 million hectares of primary forest and peatland; that was extended indefinitely. It makes it all the more galling and infuriating that just weeks after the UK’s COP26 president visited Indonesia and called on it to move forward with plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office cancelled the green growth programme, which was designed to prevent deforestation in the Indonesian Papuan provinces, three years into its five-year programme. It was described as the most successful programme that had ever been seen in Indonesia.
The UK Government need to get serious and take action. Will the Minister ensure that resources are in place to combat deforestation across the world, or will his contribution be more words with little or no financial backing, just as the Government provided at recent education and nutrition replenishment summits? We need to hear that the UK Government plan to tackle deforestation in the Amazon and are co-operating with other Governments around the world, and with the EU, to do so. What recent discussions have the UK Government had with their counterparts in Brazil? How will they prevent goods from illegal or newly legalised deforestation making their way to the UK? Will protection of the Amazon be put front and centre in any trade talks and agreements with Brazil, to ensure that the UK does not share in the profits of the rainforest’s deliberate destruction?
The UK Government must send the strongest message possible, as we have done in the debate today, and take all appropriate actions to ensure that the catastrophic destruction of the Amazon is stopped. Failure to protect that vital, fragile ecosystem is a failure to support all those who live there and all of us who rely on it across our planet.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I add my thanks to the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for once again securing this debate, which could not have come at a more important time for the future of the Amazon and the world. I also pay tribute to my predecessor on the Opposition Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office team, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West), for her excellent work on this issue.
Today we have once again had a very good debate, reflecting few party political differences but determination among all those present to ensure that further destruction of the Amazon rainforest is ceased immediately. We heard from the proposer of the debate, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell, that the situation in the Amazon has got worse in the past six months—nearly seven months—since our previous debate in the House. The Amazon is a flagship of forests around the world. The progress of the past has been reversed and land is being cleared at an alarming rate every single day.
The right hon. Gentleman said the Brazilian Senate must now step in to stop legislation that would add to that deforestation. That is a very important point and the reason we are here today. He explained why this House has an important role in helping to stop further deforestation, so that pressure from us is entirely relevant to what is happening in Brazil. Nothing could be clearer. I was grateful that he also made the link between road building and further deforestation. He said there is a clear and present danger to the future of the Amazon rainforest and biodiversity worldwide. Those points are vital. He also said that there should be no trade agreement between the United Kingdom and Brazil unless the destruction is stopped. We certainly endorse that.
We then heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy), in a powerful contribution, about the Amazon being the lungs of the Earth. We all know that, but it might now be emitting more carbon than it can possibly absorb. She pointed out that the Amazon is home to 10% of the world’s species. It is a challenge for nations that have rich natural resources but terrible poverty not to exploit those resources, but we must ensure and encourage those countries to do so. Brazil, of course, is not one of the poorest nations on earth. The UK Government really do need to act.
We then heard from the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish), who has great expertise, experience and knowledge of these issues, that Brazil is saying the right things but not acting in the right way. He gave us the statistics that support his assertion—staggering numbers. He mentioned the banks that should stop funding illegal deforestation.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), in his typically excellent way, told us about the importance of trees—emphasising something we already know—in combating climate change and oxygenating the air that we breathe every day. The UK itself is seriously lagging behind in reforestation and we must seek protection for indigenous tribes in the Amazon. The hon. Gentleman’s constituents, like all of ours, are extremely concerned at the hourly destruction of the forests.
The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) made the point that only 13% of the UK is covered in forest, so a little humility on our part is important, too. I hope when we talk to the Brazilians that we express that humility. We say this on behalf of all the inhabitants of planet Earth, whether human or not. He said it is right to press Brazil to do more, given the importance of Brazilian rainforests to the entire planet. Alarm bells should be ringing here and across the world.
We then heard an excellent summary from the SNP spokesperson the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law). The destruction of trees and other plants in the Amazon is horrifying, and we must not allow it to continue if the world is to successfully tackle climate change. Just two months after President Bolsonaro signed an agreement at COP26 to end deforestation by 2030, deforestation has hit its highest level in 15 years and continues to go largely unabated. It is clear to me and to all of us that the Brazilian Government’s position is inherently contradictory, with President Bolsonaro continuously encouraging mining and agriculture in the Amazon and trying to pass legislation that allows commercial developments on protected land. Alongside that, his attempts to offer financial incentives to the ancient indigenous tribes to develop their land in the rainforest into soy plantations is completely unacceptable.
The result of these reckless actions is that the Amazon has begun, as we have heard this morning, to emit more carbon than it can possibly absorb. It surely has to be a priority of the international community to exhaust all diplomatic avenues to ensure that the Brazilian Government take urgent action to reverse this—and fast. Opening up Brazil’s economy to the world cannot come at the cost of the Amazon rainforest’s destruction. Other countries continue to import wood and beef from Brazil, and the Brazilian Government should not be made to bear sole responsibility for the destruction we are seeing.
Does the Minister believe that the UK Government’s plan to tackle overseas deforestation is fit for purpose, now that it has been watered down and that deforestation continues to go unchallenged? Given that this Government’s Ministers boasted of their world-leading approach to protecting vital rainforest habitats as part of the Environment Bill in November last year, launching a consultation in December pledging to
“clean up the UK’s supply chains”,
is the Minister concerned that the scheme applies only to deforestation that is legal under local laws, giving leaders such as President Bolsonaro, who is stripping away legal protections, a loophole to bypass the so-called clampdown?
Britain’s place in the world depends on its ability to meet the new challenges the Earth faces. It cannot afford to drag its feet on climate change and the deforestation of the Amazon. When will the Government match the pledges of our allies in Europe, who have acted both on illegal and legal deforestation, not only in the interests of bringing down carbon emissions, but also in protecting species under increasing threat of extinction?
We are facing a climate emergency. It is time that the Government properly used the UK’s formidable diplomatic influence to challenge President Bolsonaro on the deforestation of the Amazon. The Government’s current proposals are far too weak. It is clear to the Opposition that the Government do not view tackling climate change as the foremost priority of its international and foreign policy after they agreed a trade deal with Australia that had absolutely no environmental or climate safeguards. The UK has a huge part to play in the fight against climate change, and the deforestation of the Amazon is a clear example of where we in this country should be at the forefront of this fight.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I add my words of thanks and gratefulness to my right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) for securing a second debate on this important topic. I thank my predecessor as Minister responsible for Latin America, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), for all her work on protecting the Amazon. I particularly thank her for the important work in the run-up to and during the COP26 meetings.
The importance of protecting the Amazon cannot be overstated, and we must tackle both climate change and biodiversity loss. Tackling deforestation is critical to both those issues, which is why it was at the heart of the UK’s COP26 presidency. In doing so, we must protect the natural environment and respect the rights of indigenous people. The Amazon, as the world’s largest rainforest, has to be at the centre of that effort. The Amazon is not only home to more than 10% of the world’s known plant and animal species but stores up to 200 billion tonnes of carbon—roughly a decade’s worth of global carbon dioxide emissions.
Around 17% of the Amazon has already been lost. If deforestation continues, it will reach a tipping point, potentially in the next decade. Unchecked deforestation will turn the Amazon from a carbon sink to a source of emissions, and the hope of keeping the 1.5° C target alive would slip from our grasp. Most of the emissions are caused by fires, many started deliberately to clear land for agriculture, particularly beef, as has been mentioned, and soy production. Even without fires, hotter temperatures and droughts mean that the south-eastern Amazon has already become a source of CO2 rather than a sink.
In this critical decade, protecting the Amazon while supporting a sustainable economic transition in the region is one of the most urgent challenges that we face. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell discussed Brazil, whose Government control two thirds of the Amazon as public lands. We must also remember the countries that are home to the other third of the Amazon. At COP26, much progress was made. As has been mentioned, more than 140 leaders from countries that together host over 90% of the world’s forests pledged to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030. That pledge included Amazon countries, such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
We know that to turn that promise into a reality will require funding. That is why at COP26 the UK mobilised 12 donor countries to pledge $12 billion of public climate finance through to 2025 in a new global forest finance pledge. The UK is contributing £1.5 billion—approximately $2 billion—to that pledge. We also committed to invest up to £300 million of climate finance towards tackling deforestation and delivering green growth in the Amazon by 2025.
The hon. Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) mentioned the importance of working with the financial sector. At COP26, 30 financial institutions, with more than $8.7 trillion of global assets, committed to eliminate investment in activities linked to deforestation. I know that that did not include all the banks that have been mentioned in the debate, and I call on other financial institutions to raise their ambitions. Nevertheless, the contribution from the private sector is deeply impressive. Although COP26 mobilised billions to support public sector investment in climate finance, it will be our efforts to mobilise trillions through deforestation-free supply chains that will deliver the substantive impact that we seek to achieve.
I welcome the fact that financial institutions have made that commitment to stop funding deforestation, but many of our own, homegrown banks are still funding it. Please may I ask the Government to put real pressure on those banks? We all deal with them, and they have many good parts to them, but they must not put money into companies that are deforesting. If we take away the financial blood, they will not be able to carry on doing such damage.
The importance of private sector investment and the transparency of the supply chains, which I will come to, are key to unlocking those trillions in investment that will come through the supply chain and investment. That $8.7 trillion announced at COP was deeply impressive, but others should step up to the mark, because their own customers will expect them to do so.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell also mentioned the importance of trade. I reassure him that any future bilateral trade agreements with Mercosur member countries, including Brazil, will be in line with international obligations, including our commitment to a high level of protection for the environment.
At COP26, 12 of the world’s largest companies, which manage half of all global trade in commodities linked to deforestation, announced that they would lay out a road map for action by COP27, which is due to take place in Egypt. Eight financial institutions and agribusiness companies also announced commitments worth $3 billion to support soy and cattle production in the Amazon without the need for deforestation or land conversion.
The UK is also working on other projects with global partners to help protect the Amazon. Last February, for example, together with Indonesia, we established the forest, agriculture and commodity trade dialogue, known as FACT, which brings together countries that are major producers and consumers of agricultural commodities, including in the Amazon region, to protect forests while promoting sustainable development and trade. At COP26, 28 participants, including us, Brazil, Peru and Colombia, launched the FACT road map.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton and the hon. Member for Bristol East also mentioned the importance of sustainable agriculture. Since 2012, the UK has invested more than £60 million to promote sustainable agriculture in Brazil through the low-carbon agriculture programme known as Rural Sustentável, which promotes agricultural technologies such as integrated crop-livestock-forestry systems. Phase 1, which ended in 2019, reached more than 18,500 beneficiaries in the Amazon and Atlantic forest biomes, and delivered a sevenfold increase in livestock productivity, bringing more than 46,000 hectares of land under sustainable management and reducing carbon emissions by 52% compared with the baseline scenario. By the end of phase 2 in 2024, we expect to have prevented another 132,000 hectares of deforestation across the Cerrado, Caatinga and Amazon biomes.
Will the Minister explain the logic of putting British money into such projects but allowing Bolsonaro other things? That is a pittance compared to what is happening on the negative side. Is it not just throwing away our money, when we could achieve far more if we were able to stop the deforestation that is happening elsewhere in the country?
I will come on to comments about Brazil, but let me say that, absolutely, from the perspective of the Brazilian people and the future of Brazil, being able to tap into those trillions in private sector investment and global supply chains that want to follow sustainable investment is key to their prosperity. If Brazil does not deliver on the promises that it made at COP, it will miss out on the ability to tap into that consumer demand and private sector investment that want to help tackle deforestation and protect the environment. It is therefore in the economic interests of the people of Brazil and of their Government that they deliver on those promises made at COP.
In the run-up to COP26, however, the Amazon countries demonstrated vital leadership in the key commitments that they made. Colombia, for example, enshrined in its climate action law a commitment to net zero deforestation and to protecting 30% of its land and ocean resources by 2030. Peru raised its emissions reduction target from 30% to 40% by 2030, with particular commitments to halting and reversing deforestation, as well as protecting oceans. Brazil increased its national emissions reduction target from 43% to 50% by 2030. That includes specific targets to stop all illegal deforestation in the Amazon by 2028, and to reforest 18 million hectares by 2030.
We know that it will be hard work for President Bolsonaro to turn those commitments into reality. I understand from press announcements that he has recently been taken into hospital, and I am sure that everybody in this place wishes him a speedy recovery. As I have just said, it is absolutely vital, both for the prosperity of the Brazilian people and for the protection of the environment, that those promises are turned into reality. If any future Brazilian Government were to choose to disregard the contribution of the private sector, that would weaken confidence and hit the pockets of the people of Brazil.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell also noted that the recent deforestation numbers are deeply concerning. Deforestation in the Amazon basin has increased by 20% in the last year. We will continue to work with and support the Brazilian Government, businesses and civil society organisations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton, the hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) and others mentioned indigenous people. Without the active participation of those who call the Amazon home, we will not be able to tackle deforestation. Around 6,000 indigenous territories and protected areas cover around half of the Amazon basin. That is why the UK brought together Government and philanthropic donors at COP26 to pledge at least £1.7 billion over the next four years.
The UK is also taking robust action as a consumer country. Through the Environment Act 2021, our world-leading due diligence legislation will tackle illegal deforestation in UK supply chains, looking in particular at commodities that we think play the largest roles in deforestation, including cattle, cocoa, coffee, maize, rubber, palm oil and soy. The hon. Member for Bristol East mentioned shrimp farming, and I thank her for doing so. I encourage those with evidence to submit it through DEFRA’s consultation, which is open until 11 March.
My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) mentioned the need for clearer labelling. What lies behind any deforestation-free labelling is the credibility of supply chains, so we are already working with Brazilian businesses and the Brazilian Government to firm up traceability and transparency of deforestation to help support that work on deforestation-free supply chains.
To conclude, there was genuine progress at COP, but never before have nature and forests been so central to the climate agenda, and never before have so many countries come together to help protect the Amazon. Countries in the region are showing real leadership. The task ahead remains difficult, but we are committed to working with Governments and other key players in the region to help them turn commitments into action.
First, I am grateful to all colleagues who turned up for the debate. As the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), said, this is not a party political issue; it is something about which we, as a nation, are of one mind, and we need to speak with one voice. We need to ramp up the pressure now.
The Minister is right that pain needs to be felt if those in Brazil do not stop the deforestation. It has to be in their interests to do so. It is also the job of the Government to keep explaining that to them in words of one syllable and to put whatever pressure we can on them to do that.
My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) is also right that this is a matter for consumers and for investors—I absolutely agree. I introduced a 10-minute rule Bill last year on sustainable food labelling to feed through to the Minister and her colleagues that this country must grab the initiative. We must deliver sustainable food labelling in the United Kingdom if we are to put pressure on countries such as Brazil to clean up their act. I shall put pressure on those at DEFRA in the coming weeks to ensure that they do take forward the commitments that they have already made.
My hon. Friend the Member for South West Bedfordshire also made the good point that every one of us can have an influence. Every one of us, as Members of Parliament, can write to the chief executive of their bank, if it is one of those banks that is behaving poorly. A chief executive who gets 600 letters from MPs on their desk might well get a bit of an interesting wake-up call. That is a very good point, and we should encourage colleagues to do the same.
This is such an important issue. We have only a certain amount of ability to change it, but as parliamentarians in a country that is a friend of the Brazilians, we do have some ability. We have to be critical friends. We have to tell them, “This has really got to change.”