Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)              DEF0030

Written evidence submitted by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD)


1.       CAFOD is the official Catholic aid agency for England and Wales. We work through the local Church and Catholic community across the world, standing side beside poor communities to end poverty and injustice. We work on long-term development, as well as responding to emergencies and campaigning to challenge and transform the structures and behaviours that drive poverty inequality, injustice, exclusion and environmental harm.

Executive summary

2.       The UK must put Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) at the heart of implementing its commitments to tackle deforestation. This includes ensuring that as much funding and support as possible reaches IPLCs; that they are meaningfully consulted in the implementation and monitoring of climate pledges by States (and that the UK is transparent about the pledges that it has made and how they are being implemented); and that legislation does not ‘silo’ human rights and the environment into discrete policy areas.

3.       Strong legislation is the most effective way for the UK to tackle deforestation and other harms in UK supply chains. Transparency and voluntary measures, including certification schemes, are insufficient on their own to address irresponsible business practice. The Environment Act due diligence regulation falls short of what is necessary: it is limited to only to “illegal” deforestation,” applies only to agricultural commodities, does not cover the financial sector, and does not include explicit obligations to protect the rights of IPLCs. We urge the Government to introduce stronger legislation to hold UK companies and financial organisations accountable for their failure to undertake human rights and environmental due diligence in their supply chains and operations - going beyond a commodity or sector-specific approach.

4.       The UK must support forest-rich countries, including those receiving climate funds directed to tackling deforestation, to develop legal frameworks to protect IPLC rights. At the same time, the UK’s own legislation must set high standards for UK businesses to follow, rather than relying on the strength and enforcement of national level laws.

5.       Above all, CAFOD urges an integrated approach to protecting nature, biodiversity and the rights of the IPLCs who are the custodians of global forests. We elucidate further in our response to questions 6-12 of this consultation. We do not provide responses to the first section, “Growing the UK timber industry”.

The effectiveness of UK efforts to reduce global deforestation

Question 6. In what ways and to what extent are UK value chains (in the form of public procurement, goods, services, or the private sector) contributing to global deforestation?

6.       Deforestation has reached new record level this year. Deforestation of the Amazon is 57% higher than in the previous year and is the worst since 2012, with parts of the Amazon now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs.[1]

7.       At the roots of much deforestation and related impacts on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) is the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources. Those implicated include UK businesses and financial institutions,[2] who finance, use and buy goods that are wholly or partly produced using materials sourced from forested areas. This goes beyond timber and agricultural commodities, and includes gold and other mined materials,[3] including minerals needed for a green energy transition.[4] These organisations are largely shielded from accountability through operating via lengthy and complex global supply chains. Voluntary approaches to end environmental and human rights abuse in supply chains have failed, and urgent action is what the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) Taskforce recommended in its report to the government.[5]

8.       CAFOD partners around the world are impacted by deforestation connected to UK supply chains. This includes illegal gold mining, which is creating deadly conflict, deforestation and poisoning water sources in the community of Palimiu, in Yanomami Indigenous Territory (TIY), in the Brazilian Amazon. Gold mining is causing mass forced displacement and an increase in violence against the Yanomami and Ye’kuana indigenous people.[6] It is exacerbating the existing healthcare crisis and collapse in the health system by increasing cases of malaria and other infectious and contagious disease and by contaminating water with mercury. Mercury has been found in 56% of the Yanomami women and children in the Maturacá region, in the state of Amazonas, according to a submission to Brazil’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by Brazilian civil society organisations.[7]

9.       Uncontrolled gold mining is both an attack on the indigenous way of life and on the climate: the Yanomami and Ye’kuana people depend on and protect an area of tropical forest twice the size of Switzerland (9.6m hectares) in the Brazilian Amazon, helping to maintain the forest for future generations. This includes through indigenous fire brigades, the production of seedling nurseries, the monitoring and surveillance of territories, and other actions that contribute directly and indirectly to reducing deforestation. According to a 2022 report by CAFOD partner, Socioenvironmental Institute (Instituto Socioambiental - ISA), indigenous lands alone are responsible for protecting 20.3% of the forests in Brazil.[8]

10.   Mining caused by the approximate 20,000 illegal gold miners operating in the TIY is now reaching catastrophic levels. By 2021 the total cumulative area destroyed by illegal gold mining in the TIY exceeded 3,000 hectares: it is now at its worst since the TIY was demarcated and ratified thirty years ago.[9] Roraima state, where CAFOD’s partners Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY) and Conselho Indigena de Roraima – Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) work, ranks as the state with the largest total area covered by mining applications, at 5.6m hectares. Yanomami Territory, where HAY works, ranks highest amongst all indigenous lands, covering 3.7m hectares (502 applications). Raposa Serra do Sol, where CIR works, is second at 680,000 hectares (104 applications).[10]

11.   The increase in gold mining is driven by the high value of gold on the global market. Gold hit its highest ever value in March 2022 at £1,652/ounce.[11] The gold is extracted illicitly in collusion with local landowners and businessmen, laundered in Brazil, and exported to other countries as purportedly ‘legal’. It is impossible to know exactly how much gold imported to the UK from Brazil comes from illegal or unsustainable sources. However, almost 30% of gold exported from Brazil is estimated to be illegalwith much more illicit or unsustainable and the UK is a major global importer of gold from Brazil.[12] Brazilian non-profit organisation Instituto Escolhas finds that "gold with strong evidence of illegality is circulating in the Brazilian market and represents almost half of national production (220 tonnes) […] countries that buy gold from Brazil, such as Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, among many others, are still exposed to this risk".[13] A 2022 Reporter Brasil article shows links between illegal gold from the Brazilian Amazon and 4 multinational companies: Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon.[14]

12.   Mauricio Ye’kuana of CAFOD partner HAY, states: Brazil exports illegal gold, and what we want to say is to tell people who are buying gold not to buy it from Brazil. Because we’re saying that that comes with Yanomami blood.

13.   Another example comes from CAFOD partners CAAAP and Peru Support Group. This concerns the Anglo-French company Perenco, which operates hydrocarbon exploitation and exploration activities in the Loreto Region in northern Peru. It is also working on a mega project to transport hydrocarbons and diluents by pipeline and barges along several rivers in the Amazon, in the territory of several Amazonian peoples. This and other oil projects in this area are a threat to the Amazon ecosystem, and are intensified by timber extraction, illegal crops and artisanal gold mining. These projects are located in areas difficult to access, where the State has less effective control.

14.   In 2022, Perenco sued the Peruvian government to annul a favourable law that offered initial recognition to the proposed Napo-Tigre Indigenous Reserve, located in the department of Loreto, a landmark law to protect indigenous peoples lives, their territory, culture, and environment threatened by oil and logging concessions and deforestation. "Lots 67 and 39, operated by Perenco, overlap with the territory of the Indigenous Peoples in Isolation (PIA), exposing them to contact. This could lead to a risk of genocide of these extremely vulnerable peoples," according to AIDESEP, the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest.

Question 7. How effectively is the Government monitoring the UK’s contribution to global deforestation and its progress in tackling the issue? And what progress has been made by Government to develop an indicator on overseas environmental impacts of UK consumption of key commodities?

15.   CAFOD wishes to stress that any monitoring must include the violation of human rights connected to deforestation, and that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) must be consulted in monitoring processes. We address this further in our response to question 9 of this consultation.

Question 8. How effective are the measures to improve due diligence and ban imported products of illegal deforestation in the Environment Act 2021? Do these measures target the right sectors? Given that they do not extend to all products of deforestation, are they adequate?

16.   CAFOD is concerned about the lack of ambition shown in the proposals for the deforestation due diligence in the Environment Act 2021, which could have far-reaching detrimental impacts on communities supported by CAFOD partners around the world. As well as the proposed timeline delays which differ significantly from other proposed legislation on forest-risk commodities in the EU and US, we have concerns about several key aspects of the legislation.

17.   Firstly, we are concerned that human rights are not recognised in the primary legislation – yet an integrated approach to human rights and the environment is essential to protect forests, ecosystems and biodiversity. The Global Resource Initiative (GRI) recommended that “The mandatory due diligence obligation should require companies to analyse the presence of environmental and human rights risks and impacts within their supply chains.” Parliamentarians have repeatedly raised the need for an integrated approach to human rights and the environment through, for instance, an amendment tabled in the Commons in 2020,[15] a series of interventions by Peers during report stage,[16] and a 2022 debate on “Protecting and Restoring Nature: COP15 and beyond”. The message that human rights and the environment must not be ‘siloed’ into discrete policy areas, was outlined in an open letter ahead of COP26 signed by 180 indigenous peoples’ organisations, civil society groups, human rights, activists, academics and experts from 58 countries.[17] Multiple businesses, including Unilever and Nestle, expressed in their responses to DEFRA’s Environment Bill 2020 consultation that human rights should be expressly included in the proposals.

18.   As it stands, the due diligence system has been envisioned in a far simpler way than set out in authoritative frameworks from the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines)[18] and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs).[19] We urge that the secondary legislation clearly specifies what businesses need to do to meet their due diligence obligation, and that this is aligned with the OECD Guidelines and UNGPs, encompassing: due diligence for both human rights and the environment; a comprehensive approach which includes the participation of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) in the identification, prevention, mitigation and accounting of impacts; and a continuous improvement process.

19.   We also wish to raise that the legality” approach is a significant shortcoming of the due diligence legislation. At a bare minimum, the Government must set out the categories of law that businesses must comply with, including those explicitly protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. CAFOD partners, Episcopal Commission for Natural Resources, CERN-CENCO, in the DRC, the Amazonian Center for Anthropology and Practical Application (CAAAP) in Peru and the Hutukara Associação Yanomami (HAY) in Brazil have raised repeated concerns about the relaxing of environmental regulations by their governments. This includes the lifting of a moratorium on the allocation of new forestry concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 2021 and legal reforms proposed by the Brazilian Government that would open up vast tracts of indigenous lands for mining, logging and agribusiness. Between 2017 and 2020, legally and illegally mined areas in Brazil expanded at least 66% into indigenous lands.[20] In Peru, the legislative proposal to modify Forestry Law No. 29763 is likely to create incentives and impunity for illegal deforestation and land trafficking, threatening the Peruvian Amazon.

20.   The commodity-focused, sector specific approach taken by the UK Government in this legislation is not the most effective approach to regulating supply chains. We urge the Government to bring in legislation that includes the widest scope of commodities from the very beginning; that requirements are applied uniformly across all forest-risk commodity supply chains; and that all companies using forest-risk commodities in their commercial activities are subject to the Schedule 17 requirements without exemption. Furthermore, many communities with whom CAFOD work with are impacted by the destruction and conversion of forests and other ecosystems for mined commodities, which are not covered under the regulation.

21.   Finally, CAFOD also supports the GRI’s 2022 recommendation to bring in legislation that stops the UK financial sector continuing to bankroll global deforestation – another shortcoming of the due diligence legislation in the Environment Act.[21]

22.   CAFOD believes that to effectively tackle deforestation and other environmental harms, UK legislation needs to bring in legislation that also explicitly protects human rights, according to internationally agreed standards. A law that holds companies and financial organisations accountable for their failure to undertake human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) would be a more effective approach than due diligence accompanied by a prohibition. We also urge the government to now look beyond agricultural commodities, as recommended by the 2020 GRI report: “a focus on forests and land conversion should only be a first step – wider environmental and human rights impacts associated with commodity production and trade must also be addressed and the lessons extended to other food commodities and beyond.” This could be achieved by introducing a new Business, Human Rights and Environment Act. This legislation should include access to justice and remedy for affected rights-holders. Such legislation is supported by supported by business,[22] investors,[23] civil society,[24] and by almost 4 in 5 members of the British public.[25] Notably, in 2022 G7 leaders committed to “maximise the coherent implementation of and compliance with international standards relating to human rights, environment, and labour across global supply chains,” including to introduce “mandatory measures that protect rights-holders.[26]

Question 9. To what extent have the Global Resource Initiative (GRI) Taskforce’s recommendations on deforestation and land conversion been met by the Government?

23.   The GRI report recommended (rec. 2a) that the government urgently introduces a mandatory due diligence obligation on companies that place commodities and derived products that contribute to deforestation on the UK market and to take action to ensure similar principles are applied to the finance industry. It also states that “The mandatory due diligence obligation should require companies to analyse the presence of environmental and human rights risks and impacts within their supply chains.” This recommendation helped to pave the way for the Environment Act due diligence regulation.

24.   However, the regulation falls short on a number of fronts. It applies only to only “illegal” deforestation”, risking condoning the rollback of legislation in other States; it applies only to agricultural commodities, thereby failing to address the harmful impact of mined commodities which have had devastating impacts on CAFOD partners; and it fails to include explicit obligations to protect the rights of the custodians of global forests: Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs). The Government has also failed to extend the regulation to the finance industry, relying instead on disclosure of information - which in and of itself is insufficient to change corporate practice.

Question 10. What role can sustainable certification and Government Buying Standards (GBS), have in tackling deforestation? How can the UK Government support the private sector to reduce its contribution to furthering deforestation?

25.   The most important international norms for responsible business conduct are the OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises (OECD Guidelines) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). They require companies to perform continuous due diligence in order to proactively identify, prevent and reduce risks in their supply chain and operations and to be accountable for these actions. The process of seeking certification can help companies to identify risks of deforestation. As such, they can have a role in the due diligence that companies should be conducting in order to tackle deforestation. However, they cannot replace due diligence, for the following reasons.

26.   Certification systems rely on a static list of criteria, and on audits and checklists. As such, they report only on a specific moment in time. Human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) by contrast, is a continuous process focused on detecting new, unknown risks, and as such, requires engagement with affected people - including Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) - on an ongoing basis.

27.   Certification schemes only apply to certain products and they do not always extend beyond the first tier of the supply chain. HREDD, by contrast, is focused on preventing human rights and environmental impacts throughout a company’s supply chains and operations.

28.   Most certification schemes do not provide public information on company’s efforts and do not lead to remedy for people affected by a company’s violation of the rules. According to the UNGPs and OECD Guidelines, due diligence should be accompanied by transparency about a company’s actions and provisions for remedy for affected communities.

29.   At its heart, a certification system is fundamentally a private, voluntary initiative, developed by companies, the sector, or multi-stakeholder initiatives. Many certification schemes have widespread implementation and governance failures, and businesses themselves are usually involved in setting the standards and enforcing them. [27] These schemes cannot be a proxy for compliance of government-set laws and regulations.

30.   To clarify business responsibilities, the UK Government must introduce strong legislation. The Environment Act due diligence regulation falls short of what is necessary. We recommend that the Government now legislates for HREDD across the supply chains and operations of all UK companies, going beyond a sector or commodity-specific approach. Such legislation should include accountability measures and remedy for affected people.

Working with international partners to tackle deforestation

Question 11. How effectively is the UK engaging with international partners to tackle deforestation? Is the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use an effective mechanism for halting and reversing forest loss? How can the UK ensure its £1.5bn commitment to the Global Forest Finance Pledge is used to best effect?

31.   The Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use was significant in terms of the number of countries and finance attached. We welcome that Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) were high on the agenda of COP26. IPLCs are often the best protectors of land and forests - 45% of intact forest in the Amazon lies within Indigenous-occupied land. CAFOD Partner, Mauricio Ye’kuana of the Hutukara Yanomami Association, reflected in a 2022 interview with CAFOD: This COP26 was the first time there's been indigenous representation at the opening of a COP. This didn’t exist before, but now we do have space.” However, other CAFOD partners raised concerns about how access to the negotiation spaces was not possible, with many debates happening behind closed doors, in addition to language barriers.

32.   It is crucial that the UK maintains its leadership while it still holds the COP Presidency: not only to implement its own commitments, but also to encourage other governments to follow through. In both regards, accountability measures and the participation of IPLCs are essential.

33.   The UK must ensure that as much funding as possible directly reaches IPLCs (global protectors of forests) who have historically received a fraction of the funds afforded to businesses and governments (who have historically contributed to forest destruction). The Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLC) Forest Tenure Joint Donor Statement outlines that funds need to be channelled to local level projects, with stronger accountability and annual reporting to UNFCCC COPs. However, CAFOD partner Conselho Indigena de Roraima – Indigenous Council of Roraima (CIR) in Brazil has expressed their concern that to date, international climate funds end up lost in the middle of the road, that some stay within the bureaucratic organisations credited to carry out the management of the funds, and that very few arrive with indigenous peoples or are adapted to their needs. Real, representative and legitimate consultations are needed to structure the mechanism that will carry out the transfer, and that it is not something external and alien to the way of life and organisation of the indigenous peoples, reflected CIR in response to the questions on this consultation.

34.   Support must also go beyond finance and must include supporting other countries to strengthen national level laws, which often do not provide internationally agreed protections for indigenous peoples’ rights.[28]

35.   The Government must establish concrete indicators and metrics to monitor how funds are being spent and if they are having an impact. Monitoring must include meaningful consultation with IPLCs and their representatives. The UK must also use its leverage through the UNFCCC to establish a framework for transparent monitoring of commitments by other countries. For instance, the Global Action Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture has not yet produced a list of specific actions or priorities.[29] The UK Government should provide a progress report at COP27 as COP26 president and encourage annual progress reporting at every climate COP, including more specific and divided targets on forest loss and land degradation.

36.   The Government must ensure that all information about the climate funds it has pledged is accessible, transparent and in the public domain. This must include a) from which budgets £1.5bn commitment to the Global Forest Finance Pledge will come, b) when the funds will be spent, and c) how they will be distributed. CAFOD is concerned that if funds are not additional, essential initiatives necessary to combatting global deforestation will not be implemented. CAFOD partner CIR in Brazil has expressed that is still no clarity on how the resources committed will arrive or if they are already being transferred, or by what means they will arrive; and that the process is opaque for indigenous peoples and in general.

37.   Funding must be grants, not loans. While figures specific to the UK level are difficult to find, only about one-fifth (21%) of global international climate finance (ICF) is public grants. Concessional loans account for about one-third (34%); the rest is nearly all private money (21%) and non-concessional loans (22%).[30] Non-concessional loans are offered at high interest rates – i.e., at or above market rate – or with shorter grace periods. In the UK, from 2011-21, the Government estimates that ICF programs mobilised £4.8 billion in public finance and £3.2 billion in private finance “for climate change purposes in developing countries.”[31] That’s 40% private funding – double the global percentage.

Question 12. What impact will the UK’s measures to tackle deforestation have on producer countries, indigenous peoples and local communities?

38.   Indigenous People and Local Communities (IPLCs) are the best protectors of global forests. Mauricio Ye’kuana of the Hutukara Yanomami Association (HAY), representing indigenous groups who inhabit Yanomami Indigenous Territory (TIY), expressed the following in interviews with CAFOD staff in 2022: “[The indigenous people] have historical traditions [] they ask permission from the spirits to use that space where they’re going to plant their crops [] So I’ll use that area for a maximum of seven years, and then I’ll let the forest grow back, establishing another plot somewhere else. Everything and everyone respects and has a connection to nature to be able to do this [...] The non-indigenous world is an extractive world, while indigenous people conserve.” CAFOD urges an integrated approach to protecting nature, biodiversity and the rights of the communities who are the custodians of global forests.

39.   Measures to tackle deforestation will not be effective enough if no explicit protections for IPLC rights to land or resources are included in legislation, including the important principle of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC). Mauricio Ye’kuana of CAFOD partner HAY has stated that democracy is the basis of everything: to listen to everyone who is affected, mainly indigenous peoples, quilombolas [African descendant communities], traditional communities - that we are consulted before we have these threats in our lands and against our rights. Donor country pledges on the side-lines of COP26, signed by the UK, recognised indigenous peoples’ rights and strengthened their participation. However, some of the avenues through which states are planning to implement these pledges currently fail to include effective human rights protections. This includes the UK’s deforestation due diligence regulation, which fails to embed protections for IPLCs. The UK must also support countries to develop legal frameworks to promote IPLC rights.

40.   Climate funds targeted at tackling deforestation could have a detrimental impact on human rights if they are irresponsibly distributed. For example, the UK has provided millions to the Colombian government to tackle deforestation, without discernible effect.[32] Our partners in Colombia have expressed concern that, in response to the increase in deforestation since the signing of the Final Peace Agreement in September 2016 between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), the previous Colombian government largely moved away from consultation with affected rural communities and is instead criminalising IPLCs. From October 2018 it launched Operation Artemisa, which involved violations of fundamental rights of peasant and ethnic communities, including by excessive use of force by the Colombian armed forces.[33] We urge the UK Government to channel funds through IPLCs and their representatives, rather than initiatives such as the above, which could have a detrimental impact on their rights.

41.   CAFOD also wishes to express concern about the lack of accountability of land-based carbon offset schemes. If carbon sinks targeted by offsetting schemes are in indigenous lands where rights have not been secured, they could have a detrimental impact on IPLC rights.[34] Such schemes could drive up land grabbing in the name of green climate projects and offsets.


September 2022



[1] The Guardian (2021):

[2] Global Canopy (2022): and Global Witness (2022):

[3] BBC News (2022):


[5] Global Resource Initiative (2020):

[6] Instituto Socioambiental - ISA (2022):

[7] Submission by the Comissão Especial de Ecologia Integral e Mineração (CEEM) of the National Brazilian Bishops Conference (CNBB); Central Única dos Trabalhadores – CUT, Comitê Nacional em Defesa dos Territórios Frente à Mineração (National Committee for the Defense of Territories Against Mining) – CNDTM; O Grupo Política, Economia, Mineração, Ambiente e Sociedade (PoEMAS); Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração (MAM), Nova Central Sindical de Trabalhadores, Rede Igrejas e Mineração, Serviço Interfranciscano de Justiça, Paz e Ecologia (SINFRAJUPE) and Franciscans International (2022). This is available on request.

[8] Instituto Socioambiental (2022):

[9] Amazon Watch (2022):

[10] Amazon Watch (2022):

[11] Investing News (2022):

[12] Reuters (2021):

[13] Instituto Escolhas (2021):

[14] Reporter Brasil (2022):

[15] Corporate Justice Coalition (2020):

[16] Hansard (2021):

[17] Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (2021): Open letter from civil society to world leaders: Put human rights at the centre of environmental policy - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (

[18] OECD (2011)

[19] UN OHCHR (2011):

[20] See footnote 7.

[21] Global Resource Initiative (2022):

[22] Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (2022):

[23] Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (2022):

[24] Corporate Justice Coalition (2021):

[25] Anti-Slavery International and Corporate Justice Coalition (2022) ASI CJC BHRE-polling-press-release FINAL (002).pdf(Review)- Adobe cloud storage

[26] G7 Employment Ministerial Meeting Communiqué (2022)

[27] Greenpeace (2021):

[28] Forest Peoples Programme (2022):

[29] Global Action Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture (2021):

[30] UK Government (2021):

[31] UK Government (2021):

[32] The Independent (2021):

[33] WOLA (2021):

[34] New Statesman (2021):