Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Saving the rainforests

In principle, the idea that legislation should be introduced to ensure that goods on sale in the UK have been produced in a way which does not encourage or promote deforestation is a sound one. The particular approach being proposed by the UK has a number of major flaws however, not least that it depends on the production of raw materials to be ‘in accordance with local legislation’. In states where ‘local legislation’ is either non-existent, badly defective, or hopelessly unenforced as a result of them exercising their own sovereignty, it creates a massive loophole which makes it look more like a gesture than a serious attempt to protect the rainforests. I’m sure that a desirable outcome could be assisted by UK legislation, but it would involve a willingness not only to have an independent international arbiter rather than depend on ‘local legislation’ to determine whether the rainforests are being damaged by producing the relevant products, but also to demand, effectively, that companies operating elsewhere which are selling into the UK market would have to abide by the same rules. It’s a clear instance where legislation in one country will never be enough to prevent environmental damage happening on the other side of the world – countries need to co-operate and work to common rules to ensure change. The UK could lead on this - if it really wanted to do more than make gestures.

In completely unrelated news, it seems that the negotiations over a trade deal with the EU are foundering largely because the UK government considers it utterly unacceptable that the EU should expect third parties (such as the UK) to abide by its rules in relation to issues such as environmental protection, rather than recognise that, as a sovereign state, the UK has the right to set its own rules independently of anyone else, and equally unacceptable that whether it is complying with rules should be determined by anyone other than itself.

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