Fairtrade issues COP28 plea to UK government to support farmers with deforestation laws
Ivory Coast Cocoa Farming, where levels of deforestation are continuing to prove a notable problem.
Fairtrade has issued a plea to the UK government at the COP28 global summit to fulfil pledges on tackling deforestation, and to ensure that polices do not negatively impact on small scale farmers, reports Neill Barston.
The international movement, which was recently part of our latest World Confectionery Conference sent an open letter that has urged Andrew Mitchell, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Lord Benyon, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to address major concerns facing agricultural supply chains, including the cocoa sector.
Signed by senior figures across the Fairtrade global organisation issued its plea in response to what it described a ‘severe climate crisis’ on behalf of around two millions farmers and workers globally, calling for the Environment Act 2021 to be formally adopted and legislation brought forward. As it stands, this has yet to happen – meaning that there are no legally binding targets in place surrounding the pivotal issue of deforestation within the UK’s policy.
Back in November 2021, under former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the government set out plans to fund over £3 billon of International Climate Finance on nature and biodiversity, including £500 million on tackling deforestation. The policy was welcomed by Fairtrade, as it was anticipated to create thousands of jobs, including in sustainable agriculture, with claims of stimulating £1 billion green private sector investment.
EU deforestation progress
The topic is presently high on the EU agenda, with the European Parliament progressing its EUDR deforestation legislation that will make it necessary for European based importers to confirm that their supply chains are deforestation free. This has been applied to a wide range of product sectors, including within cocoa and palm oil supply chains.
In its open letter, Fairtrade signatories said: “We add our voice to those, including key UK retailers, calling for the legislation to protect the vulnerable. We urge the UK Government to bring forward the legislation as soon as possible. COP28 would be the ideal opportunity for the Government to demonstrate its strong commitment to tackling deforestation whilst also supporting the most vulnerable. We would welcome the Government using the [COP28] summit as the opportunity to make an announcement around the secondary legislation.”
It continued: “We would also welcome further announcements regarding the status of the £500m package on deforestation announced at COP26. We urge the Government to ensure that this funding is disbursed in a way that reaches the world’s poorest farmers and workers – the people at the first mile of global supply chains – and responds to the priorities that they identify. This will be critical to supporting the successful implementation of the Environment Act and a just transition.”
Furthermore, Fairtrade noted that in developing any secondary legislation on the Environment Act, the UK Government should assess the impacts on smallholders conducted before the regulatory proposal passes into law; tackle root causes of deforestation as a precondition to reducing the deforestation footprint; and engage responsibly with smallholders and their producer organisations.
The signatories also believe the UK Government should ‘refer explicitly’ to international standards of human rights; combine traceability requirements with ‘adequate support and safeguards’ on data ownership for smallholders and their producer organisations; and maximise the potential of partnerships and other financial tools to support smallholders to comply with new requirements and jointly address the root causes of deforestation.
Imported goods popular with UK shoppers, such as cocoa, bananas, tea, coffee and cotton, are often produced by farmers and workers who are marginalised within global supply chains and who cannot earn a living income and living wage, due to low prices paid for their crops and low earnings. While they want to tackle deforestation, they cannot afford to lose market access. As a result, farmers and workers must be supported to comply with the new legislation, the Fairtrade signatories say.
“It is therefore essential that when tackling deforestation, the burden and high cost of compliance falls on those with the broadest shoulders – multinational companies that account for the majority of value share in many supply chains. Otherwise, the legislation will likely have the unintended consequence of pushing more people into poverty and will not have the effect of reducing deforestation as the legislation sets out to do,” the letter warns.