The new bill aims to reduce deforestation. | Brett Jordan via Pexels

UK companies that sell certain products containing palm oil could face a hefty fine. That’s according to a new bill proposed by the government.

The proposed legislation aims to cut down on the sale of commodities that are linked to deforestation. In addition to palm oil, these include cocoa, beef, and soy, among others.

Under the new law, large UK businesses must show where they have sourced their products. Companies would be fined for using items that were obtained from land that was illegally cleared.

“There is a hugely important connection between the products we buy and their wider environmental footprint,” International Environment Minister, Lord Zac Goldsmith, said in a statement.

He continued: “Which is why the Government is consulting on new measures that would make it illegal for businesses in the UK to use commodities that are not grown in accordance with local laws.”

 

Palm Oil and Deforestation

Commodities like palm oil are used in a wide variety of food products like chocolate and personal care items, such as toothpaste and cosmetics. Some household products like cleaners and laundry detergent also contain palm oil.

In order to make room for plantations or farms to produce palm oil, soy, and other commodities, farmers commonly burn and cut down rainforests. Farmers clear approximately 300 soccer fields worth of tropical rainforests every hour just for palm oil production.

As a result, deforestation plays a role in the decline of species like orangutans and tigers.

The production of palm oil impacts nearly 200 threatened species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The greenhouse gas emissions released during land clearing are also a major driver of climate change.

The UK’s proposed bill aims to address these concerns. It will mandate that businesses must publish information pertaining to the origins of their products. They must show that the production of the commodities is in accordance with laws that protect the local forests.

UK ministers will have six weeks to consult and approve the new measure.

Goldsmith says the bill’s introduction comes ahead of the country hosting next year’s UN Climate Change Conference. “The UK has a duty to lead the way in combating the biodiversity and nature crisis now upon us,” he said.

Some believe more action can be taken by big businesses to reduce deforestation.

Elena Polisano, a Greenpeace UK forest campaigner, told the Guardian: “companies like Tesco, who sell more meat and dairy and so use more soya for animal feed than any other UK retailer, know what they need to do to reduce the impact they are having on deforestation in the Amazon and other crucial forests.”

“They must reduce the amount of meat and dairy they sell,” added Polisano. “And drop forest destroyers from their supply chain immediately.”