Amendment 6

Part of Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords am 6:15 pm ar 16 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Ceidwadwyr 6:15, 16 Ionawr 2024

I rise to speak to the proposed new clause “Review: forest risk commodities”, which is in my name and the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble Lords, Lord Davies and Lord McNicol. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, has spoken and I thank him for his support. I also appreciated the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, when she spoke earlier, and I strongly agree with the case she made for prioritising indigenous people. There is no cheaper or more effective solution, if we are interested in protecting nature, than backing those who have been doing that for generations. The maths and facts speak for themselves—80% of terrestrial biodiversity is in land looked after, and in some cases owned by, indigenous people, so the noble Baroness makes the point very well.

Deforestation is a major environmental crisis for so many reasons. We heard earlier from the noble Baroness that the displacement of people all over the world is causing runaway biodiversity collapse and the loss of a terrifying variety of lifeforms. Once gone, they are never going to come back. Nearly 90% of deforestation is caused by agricultural expansion. The resulting loss of habitat has caused a horrifying decline in everything from tigers and elephants to rhinos, hornbills and orangutans. Orangutans, incidentally, are relevant to this amendment because they tend to live in areas where palm oil is so prevalent; they have lost 80% of their habitat in the last 20 years.

Forest loss goes far beyond even that. The Congo basin, whose forest is disappearing at a rate of around 1 million hectares every single year, produces most of the rainfall for the entire continent of Africa. If those trends are allowed to continue, we are going to see humanitarian crisis on biblical scales. In the Amazon too—we do not fully understand the role of the Amazon in generating rainfall, but we know it generates rainfall and that that rainfall falls in the southern states of the United States, and that without the Amazon there would be huge repercussions across that entire region—it is in everyone’s interest that stopping deforestation remains a top priority.

I have not even mentioned climate change at this point. Deforestation is now the second leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels. There is no credible solution to climate change and no credible net-zero plan that does not include nature at its very heart. A plan that does not include nature is not, in real terms, a plan at all.

It is for these reasons I am bringing this amendment to the House today. Noble Lords have previously expressed concern that, once ratified, the CPTPP agreement will remove all tariffs on palm oil irrespective of its environmental credentials. They are right to flag this issue, which has been flagged a number of times, because in pursuing that policy we risk, at the very least, undermining the core of our COP 26 messaging on the importance of forest.

It also contradicts commitments made by the Government under Schedule 17 to the Environment Act to tackle illegal deforestation in our supply chains. Indeed, without the safeguards of the due diligence secondary legislation in place—that safeguard is not there yet and I hope the Minister will be able to provide some reassurance about when that is going to happen—it is simply irresponsible to pursue a policy of this sort.

Around 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. It is estimated that around 1% of Malaysian palm oil smallholdings are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. That 1% makes up around 40% of all the palm oil plantations in Malaysia. The RSPO is probably the most widely recognised certification scheme. It is voluntary, and among other things it requires that palm oil is deforestation- free.

We know what is possible when a Government are serious about this issue. We have actually seen amazing efforts and results in Indonesia. It gets very little credit for the work we have seen over the last few years, but under the leadership of a number of very impressive people, not least Minister Siti Nurbaya, that country has come pretty close—it has not done it yet, but has come pretty close—to breaking the link between palm oil production and environmental destruction. I think it should get more credit for the work it is doing, because it is a model that other commodity-producing countries could learn from.

I acknowledge and welcome, very briefly, the side agreement that the UK and Malaysian Governments have signed. It commits to strengthening efforts to conserve forests and promote sustainable supply chains, in particular around palm oils. In many respects, the statement goes further than the due diligence secondary legislation that I mentioned earlier. But the agreement still relies on the Malaysian sustainable palm oil certification scheme, as opposed to the RSPO, which I mentioned earlier. The details around the Malaysian scheme are unclear and in truth it is significantly less robust than the RSPO—I do not think anyone would argue against that.

That is why it is so vital that work is done to review the impact of that agreement once it is in place. This proposed new clause is very simple, and that is what it seeks to do. It would require a review every two years that would assess the effectiveness of that agreement, alongside the impact of the CPTPP trade deal, on the sustainable production of forest risk commodities more broadly, including palm oil of course, right the way through our supply chains. The review would also look at the impact of the deal on deforestation within CPTPP nations, and the compatibility of the deal with our own due diligence regulations.

I hope that noble Lords agree that it is a reasonable amendment. It offers a practical way of reaffirming the Government’s commitment to making sure that our own supply chains are part of the solution and not the problem, as well as empowering Parliament to hold the Government to account on this issue. The new clause is supported by a number of significant environmental organisations—WWF, Chester Zoo and others—and has support from Peers for the Planet, for which I am very grateful.

Very briefly, as I finish, I will say that in my previous capacity as Minister of State, I went to Chester Zoo and saw its pioneering work on sustainable palm oil—clearing up its own supply chains but then helping businesses in the area do exactly the same. I thank it on the record for its leadership on this issue and for its work more broadly. Its Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, which has been running for a quarter of a century, involves creating magnificent nature corridors linking up those little habitats, and making it possible for distinct and previously quite cut- off orangutan populations to meet, breed and strengthen their population.

We need to ensure that the environmental safeguards we put in place, such as this UK/Malaysia agreement, are effective. That is the purpose behind this amendment. Of course, a stronger, better and easier policy would be to remove tariffs entirely on commodities from countries that have broken the link between agricultural commodities and deforestation, or conversion of important ecosystems. We know that is possible: Gabon has broken the link between logging and deforestation; Costa Rica has broken the link between agricultural commodities and deforestation, and I mentioned Indonesia earlier.

I was thrilled to see that, in the free trade agreement between the EFTA and Indonesia, there is a commitment that palm and other vegetable oils that have been produced protecting primary forests, peatlands, and related ecosystems will get preferential market access. So it is possible to build these safeguards into the primary agreement but, in their absence, we have to act now by passing something similar, at least, to this amendment. I hope that, when he responds, the Minister will be able to provide some real, meaningful reassurances that the impact of these agreements on deforestation, on our supply chain and on our role as consumers in deforestation, is properly understood and monitored, and that we are indeed part of the solution and not the problem.