Article by Mike Gaworecki.
A new report that looks at the collaborative efforts of private sector and government actors to halt deforestation in two key tropical forest nations could have lessons for countries around the world.
The report, released by the NGOs Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Forest Trends (FT) last week, consists of case studies on how companies are working with the governments of Brazil and Indonesia, which together accounted for nearly 40 percent of total tropical deforestation in 2014.
According to research released earlier this year by Forest Trends’ Supply Change initiative, as of March 2017 some 447 companies had made 760 commitments to root out the deforestation in their supply chains linked to four globally traded agricultural commodities that are responsible for the majority of tropical forest destruction: cattle, palm oil, soy, and wood products (including timber and pulp).
At the same time, 80 percent of the nearly 200 countries that signed the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015 committed themselves to reining in emissions from deforestation and other land use changes in order to help meet the targets in the action plans they submitted as part of the climate treaty negotiation process, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
While these commitments are seen as good indicators that the world is mobilizing to address widespread tropical deforestation and the climate risk that it poses, the clearing of rainforests for agricultural operations or other human activities is still responsible for at least 10 percent of global carbon emissions.
The authors of the new EDF-FT report write that greater collaboration between corporations, governments, and other stakeholders is crucial to actually meeting climate change mitigation goals: “Considering the common goals of companies, governments, and multi-stakeholder initiatives, it is imperative to identify opportunities for collaboration to harness synergies between initiatives and catalyze action.”
In a blog post, report author Breanna Lujan, a global climate policy analyst for EDF, explains why it’s absolutely essential that the private sector and government actors find ways to work collaboratively to halt deforestation: “[C]orporations need a regulatory and policy environment conducive to their reduced deforestation commitments—which governments can provide; and governments would benefit tremendously from the participation of key corporate actors in order to achieve the reduced deforestation and forest landscape restoration goals put forth in their NDCs.”
Case studies of collaboration in Brazil and Indonesia
Lujan and co-authors examine the synergies between the NDCs of Brazil and Indonesia and the sustainability commitments of companies operating in those countries, before making recommendations for how other countries can follow the example set by both countries.
In Brazil, for instance, several companies that have adopted Zero Deforestation Commitments are also collaborating with the government and NGOs on initiatives like Mato Grosso state’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program, which aims to decrease deforestation levels, boost reforestation efforts, and push for more sustainable agricultural and livestock production.
These goals align pretty neatly with those in Brazil’s NDC, which commit the country to reducing emissions below 2005 levels some 37 percent by 2025 and 43 percent by 2030. Reforms to the land-use and forestry sectors factor largely into how Brazil proposes to meet these targets: the country’s NDC also includes plans to eliminate illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030 and restore 12 million hectares of rainforest by 2030, among other measures.
“Through interactions via the PCI and other partnerships, the private sector is supporting the government to accelerate the implementation of the country’s NDC goals, and revealing the ways in which these collaborations can be scaled-up and amplified throughout the country,” Lujan writes.
Indonesia, meanwhile, adopted the goal of reducing emissions 29 percent by 2030 as compared to an estimate of the emissions that would result if the country were to continue with “business as usual” — and that target would scale up to 41 percent if the country receives sufficient international conservation financing through programs such as the UN’s program for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (known as REDD+), which was included as a standalone article in the Paris Agreement. The country has also enacted several policies focused on peatland and forest conservation and restoration.
Indonesia’s forests and climate goals dovetail nicely with the No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments made by many companies in the country, Lujan notes. “Many of these companies are collaborating with subnational governments in jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at achieving their shared goals of reducing deforestation,” she writes in her blog post.
Lujan calls the Central Kalimantan Jurisdictional Commitment to Sustainable Palm Oil “one of the most advanced public-private collaborations to address deforestation and emissions in Indonesia.” The initiative fosters cooperation between indigenous peoples, local governments, NGOs, oil palm growers and buyers, and smallholder farmers around their shared goal of certifying all palm oil produced in the province of Kalimantan by 2019.
Of course, national and sub-national level initiatives are not the only examples out there. As the authors of the report note, companies, civil society groups, and governments have come together to form a number of international partnerships in order to meet their mutual targets for reducing deforestation and global warming pollution, such as the UN’s New York Declaration on Forests and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020.
But research released late last year by UK-based think tank Global Canopy Programme (GCP) found that, despite the growing momentum to end tropical deforestation, the pledges made by these multi-stakeholder groups “lack the teeth” to make truly meaningful changes in the global agricultural commodities supply chain. GCP concluded that the deforestation targets for 2020 and 2030 committed to by the Consumer Goods Forum, a global network of over 400 consumer companies, and signatories to the New York Declaration on Forests — which include 40 national governments, 20 sub-national governments, 57 multinational companies, 16 indigenous groups, and 57 civil society organizations — were unlikely to be met. Companies specifically cited forest country governments’ actions and policies, and in many cases the lack of governments’ actions and policies, as one of the main obstacles to cleaning up their supply chains.
“Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia show that corporate zero deforestation commitments — when buttressed by strong government policies and enhanced by multi-stakeholder partnerships — can help countries reach their goals of reducing deforestation and enhancing forest landscape restoration,” Lujan writes. “This type of collaboration is of increasing importance and has come to the fore in countries such as the United States, where businesses and local and state governments are teaming up to uphold the spirit of the country’s Paris Agreement pledge, despite the US federal government’s announcement to leave the Agreement.”
Aerial view of forest and land cleared for oil palm operations in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett Butler.