US Congress to introduce bill to curb global deforestation

Passage of the Forest Act would provide significant protection for climate critical forests

WASHINGTON — Friends of the Earth welcomes today’s announcement of the Forest Act, a new bipartisan bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate that seeks to put an end to U.S. agribusiness’s role in enabling illegal deforestation globally. The bill, whose full title is The Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade Act, was unveiled today by Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) Deforestation is a key driver of the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and an epidemic of violence against environmental human rights defenders around the world.

Friends of the Earth has joined over 40 U.S. environmental, human rights, and anti-corruption organizations in signing an open letter calling on Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to swiftly enact the proposed legislation.

Jeff Conant, Senior International Forest Program Manager with Friends of the Earth, issued this statement:

The U.S. is one of the world’s largest consumers of agricultural commodities that are devastating the world’s forests, and U.S. banks and investors play a key role in financing this devastation. The introduction of the Forest Act will be a crucial recognition that the U.S. must change the rules that allow U.S. multinational companies to degrade and destroy the world’s last intact forests.

The Forest Act will be the first legislation proposed in the U.S. to prohibit agricultural commodities produced on illegally deforested land from entering the U.S. market. The bill would require the companies importing high-risk agricultural commodities and products to ensure that their supply chains do not contribute to illegal deforestation.

Deforestation is responsible for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and most of that deforestation is driven by agricultural expansion and commodity production. Recent studies show that 69 percent of land conversion for commercial agriculture is conducted illegally. It is widely known that deforestation driven by large-scale agribusiness is closely linked to labor rights abuses, forced displacement, land grabbing and violence and intimidation against forest defenders and Indigenous communities.

The Forest Act is one of numerous initiatives underway globally to curb tropical deforestation, including efforts in France, Norway, the UK and the EU. A similar bill, the California Deforestation Free Procurement Act, has just been vetoed by California’s governor after passing both houses of the California legislature.

In addition to Senator Schatz and Representatives Blumenauer and Fitzpatrick, the FOREST Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the Senate, and U.S. Representatives Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) in the House of Representatives.

The full text of the Forest Act is available here. A one page summary is available here, and a section by section summary can be found here.

Press contact: Kerry Skiff, 202-222-0723, [email protected]

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