The TREES Act Is Being Introduced In New York To Help Stop Tropical Deforestation & Protect Endangered Species

Last week, New York State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski announced that they will be introducing a revised version of their NY Tropical Deforestation-Free Procurement Act, which was vetoed by Governor Kathy Hochul in December. The new bill, renamed the Tropical Rainforest Economic & Environmental Sustainability (TREES) Act, makes several changes to address concerns raised by the Governor, while retaining the nation-leading impact of the original bill.“As I said when the Governor vetoed this bill in December, this is not some esoteric issue for tree-huggers – the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis threaten the very survival of human civilization,” said Senator Krueger. “That is why we will be reintroducing the bill. We have addressed the Governor’s concerns as they were expressed to us, and we are confident that the TREES Act can not only be successfully implemented, but will enhance New York’s global role as an environmental leader. I look forward to sending it back to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible.”

“We know the devastating impact that deforestation has on climate change and the homes of a vast number of species,” said Assemblymember Zebrowski. “That’s why closing loopholes that allow for New York to continue contributing to this practice is so important. With the introduction of the TREES Act, we can do just that while ensuring that previous concerns are adequately addressed.”

Tropical forests harbor close to 50% of all species on Earth. Those species are now going extinct at a rate that is at least 100 to 1,000 times higher than historical levels, due to human activity. Taking into account carbon sequestration potential, stopping the loss of tropical forests, mangroves, and wetlands could provide over 20% of necessary climate mitigation by 2030.Globally, an estimated 18,000,000 acres of forest, an area more than half the size of New York State, is lost every year due to deforestation, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Sadly, over one-half of Earth’s tropical forests are already gone. At the current pace, the entirety of Earth’s tropical rainforests will be degraded or destroyed within the next 100 years.Loss of biodiversity resulting from forest degradation and deforestation, as well as human encroachment on formerly undisturbed ecosystems, also increases the risk of zoonotic diseases.The TREES Act would help to ensure that New York State government procurement does not drive tropical deforestation or degradation. The bill would tighten an existing state ban on the use of tropical hardwoods for government projects, and creating a new statute requiring state contractors who deal in forest-risk commodities to certify that their products don’t drive deforestation. New York would be the first state in the nation to implement such a policy, following in the footsteps of the European Union, which recently enacted economy-wide deforestation regulations.Many businesses throughout the United States and across the world are already increasingly engaged in efforts to ensure their supply chains are transparent, traceable, ethical, and environmentally sound, whether in reaction to consumer pressure or government regulation, or out of an understanding of corporate social responsibility. Businesses that achieve ethical and sustainable supply chains may also be able to increase their appeal with certain consumers, charge premium prices, or access previously untapped markets as a result of their efforts.In order to remain competitive, New York businesses, particularly small and medium-sized businesses and minority- and women-owned businesses, must be able to take advantage of and stay ahead of this socially responsible and beneficial trend. The proposed Supply Chain Transparency Assistance Program, included in the TREES Act, to be administered by Empire State Development, would be available to New York-based small and medium-sized businesses, as well as MWBEs, to help them establish more ethical and sustainable supply chains, while ensuring they have the tools they need to compete in the national and global marketplace.

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