The UK must “get the ambition back” on its environmental pledges, the chief executive of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) UK has said.
Tanya Steele said tougher rules on deforestation were needed after she was made a CBE by the King at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
It comes after the WWF called on the government to expand the due diligence system to include legal as well as illegal deforestation and cut deforestation out of supply chains in its Forest Pathways Report.
Asked about the UK meeting its environmental targets, Ms Steele told the PA news agency: “I think the UK needs to do a number of things. We need to get our own house in order.
“There’s a piece of legislation (the Environment Act 2021) that was laid down two years ago and we have yet to enforce measures that would effectively remove deforestation from the goods that are imported into the UK, to take them off our supermarket shelves.”
Ms Steele said the greater enforcement was needed for all types of deforestation and should be extended beyond companies to include financial institutions, which were “making billions of pounds through investments and lending”.
She continued: “We have to get the ambition back. There is no doubt that we are in a world beset by crises, but these are crises within crises and we cannot overlook the impacts and the real and present threat of climate change, so we have to grasp that opportunity.”
Ms Steele was honoured in the New Year Honours for her services to wildlife and the environment.
She said: “It’s a huge honour, on behalf of all the WWF colleagues that I work with who work so tirelessly for our planet and also to receive it from the King, who as we know is a huge environmental advocate.
“We talked about the importance of the upcoming climate conference Cop28, particularly the role of forests, and we briefly touched on the big three forest basins across the world, the Amazon, the Congo and Mekong-Borneo.
“So I know that the King is really encouraging us to champion their role.”
Dame Ann Limb was also recognised at the ceremony for her services to young people and philanthropy.
Dame Ann, who served as the first female and openly gay chairwoman of the Scout Association from 2015 to 2021, said the King was “somebody who puts everybody at ease” and “a man for all seasons”.
Describing the experience as “rather surreal”, she told PA: “Like every recipient today, you can’t help but feel that it’s a special occasion in your life, and certainly not one I expected to happen to be honest.”
Dame Ann said she was very proud of getting children engaged with the Scouts during her time as chair, particularly four to six-year-olds and those living in deprived and disadvantaged communities across England.
More than 1,000 Scout units opened in areas of deprivation throughout her tenure.
“I want more people from a much younger age to do Scouts, Guides, volunteer work, whatever – just something that takes them out of their comfort zone.”
Dame Ann said most people do want to be spared time away from their phone screens and to connect with nature outdoors, adding: “I’m very hopeful that we’re not just breeding a generation of children that only sit in their rooms and look at TV, mobile phone or computer screens.”