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Free trade agreements assess environmental impact following EAC intervention

1 February 2022

The Government has confirmed that Ministers will assess the environmental impacts of all future UK free trade agreements (FTAs), and has committed to assess how to deliver environmental net gain in trade deals.

The commitments come as the Environmental Audit Committee publishes the Government’s response to its report, The UK’s footprint on global biodiversity.

Within the report, the Committee acknowledged the opportunity leaving the EU has on promoting the highest environmental and social standards in international trade deals. It recommended that the Government should make good on its support for environmental sustainability, and referenced evidence on the need to accelerate towards sustainable supply chains. The Committee therefore strongly welcomes the clear commitment made that – unlike in the past – environmental impact will become a key metric when evaluating future trade deals.

The Committee argued that the Government had a unique opportunity to illustrate best practice in its own procurement to encourage other organisations to follow. In the Government’s response, it confirmed that it is to reinstate mandatory reporting on sustainable procurement, and that the rules will now “apply to more of the government estate than ever before”.

The second part of the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) is expected to be held in late spring. The Government has agreed with the Committee that the UK’s negotiating position should include: a commitment to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030; strengthen Goal A on species extinction to commit to stopping human-induced extinctions; negotiate reference to nature-based solutions in Target 8 on minimising the impact of climate change on biodiversity; and address unsustainable consumption and production within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) text.  

Chair's comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said:

“I am very pleased to see that the Government is taking forwards a number of our Committee’s recommendations. This reflects an important turning point in how seriously the Government takes the UK’s responsibility for restoring global biodiversity.

“Embedding nature protection in trade agreements not only safeguards biodiversity, but it sends a striking message to trading partners that this must be prioritised. The Government should be commended for showing such leadership. At home, by making sustainability a central tenet of its procurement choices, the Government is showing other organisations that it is possible. My committee looks forward to examining how these commitments will be implemented.

“At a time when the Government is looking beyond the pandemic, it is encouraging to see it is keen to keep up this momentum on the importance of biodiversity and show leadership at COP15 when the international community comes together, once more, in the Spring.” 

Further information

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