An innovative public-private partnership of multinationals, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples today pledged to cut the loss of forests in half by 2020 and end it a decade later in 2030 – a move that will eliminate the emission of between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by the one billion cars that are currently on the world’s roads.
On Tuesday at the Climate Summit, the New York Declaration on Forests was endorsed by countries in the developed and developing world – including the United States, the EU, and a large number of tropical forest countries – as well as by multinationals from the food, paper, finance and other industries, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples from Peru to Nepal. For the first time, 156 of these global leaders agreed on a date to end deforestation, and the need for large-scale economic incentives for countries that reduce the loss of their forests. Deforestation is a frequently overlooked source of carbon dioxide emissions and a significant contributor to climate change, as trees, which store carbon, instead release it when they are burned during slash-and-burn land clearing of forests.
The Declaration, which was driven by a group of countries and companies with input from civil society and indigenous peoples, aims to change politics going into next year’s Paris climate talks and accelerate action by companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. The Declaration also calls for the restoration of over 350 million hectares of forests and croplands, an area greater than the size of India, which would bring significant climate benefits and take pressure off primary forests. It builds on announcements made at the Climate Summit and over the past months.
“I asked for countries and companies to bring bold pledges, and here they are,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “The New York Declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually, and it doesn’t stop there. Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – the actions agreed today will reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve the rule of law, secure the rights of indigenous peoples and benefit communities around the world.”
“The New York Declaration sends an unmistakable signal going into Paris 2015,” said Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. “Science tells us we won’t limit global warming to two degrees without massive efforts on forests. Today, forward-thinking leaders in government, business and civil society together have begun the push to enact policies, change practices and put in place appropriate incentives to end deforestation.”
“This is a serious commitment for a serious challenge,” said Heru Prasetyo, head of Indonesia’s REDD+ Agency. “With the strong partnership of key actors from governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community I am confident we can achieve this ground-breaking vision.”
The Declaration’s endorsement comes as the forest sector is transformed by new policies and shifting demand from consumer goods companies and consumers, stronger land rights for indigenous peoples and greater advocacy by civil society. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down 75 per cent since 2004, and in the past nine months alone 60 per cent of the world’s highly carbon-intensive palm oil trade has come under commitments to go deforestation-free.
“Our planet is losing forests at a rate of eight football fields every ten seconds,” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). “Today we’ve seen important commitments from companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples to halt this trend. Now it is time for urgent collaboration to see these commitments realized on the ground.”
“The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top,” said Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, a consumer products company. “Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding. Better still, companies are committing to working in partnership with suppliers, governments and NGOs to strengthen forest governance and economic incentives. It can be done and this Declaration signals a real intention to accelerate action.”
“Forests are not solely economic resources, but are the center of spiritual life and cultural integration for indigenous peoples,” said Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of Indonesia’s Archipelago (AMAN). “The New York Declaration is a long-awaited show of political will by all countries to support indigenous peoples as we fight to defend our forests.”
To support the New York Declaration, several specific commitments to action were announced today, including:
Three of the world’s largest palm oil companies – Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill, all of which recently announced deforestation-free sourcing policies and who jointly make up more than half of global palm oil trade – committed to work together on implementation, and joined the Indonesian Business Council in asking incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo to support their efforts through legislation and policies.
Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom announced they would push for large-scale economic incentives as part of the Paris climate talks in 2015, and in the next couple of years pledged to enter into up to 20 new programs to pay countries for reduced deforestation rates, if credible programs were put forward. The three countries also pledge to consider funding additional, credible programs thereafter, if REDD+ countries deliver the results. A global coalition of indigenous peoples spanning Asia, Africa, Central America and the Amazon Basin pledged to protect the more than 400 million hectares of tropical forests under their management. This represents the storage of over 70 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
Peru and Liberia presented groundbreaking new forest policies, that see Peru getting up to US $300 million in funding from Norway and additional support from Germany, and Liberia receiving up to US $150 million from Norway, depending on results. Norway also announced support in the amount of US $100 million for indigenous peoples, as part of Norway’s total pledge of $3 billion for climate and forest purposes in the years through 2020.
Twenty-six governors from provinces covering a quarter of tropical forests pledged to do more than their fair share on climate change – to cut deforestation by 80 percent – if developed countries create new economic incentives.
DRC, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Uganda and several other countries are set to make national pledges to restore over 30 million hectares of degraded lands, more than doubling the 20 million hectares already pledged to date under the Bonn Challenge.
The Consumer Goods Forum, a coalition of 400 companies with combined sales over US $3 trillion, called on governments to pass a legally binding climate deal in Paris next year that includes large-scale payments to countries that reduce deforestation.
Several of Europe’s largest countries committed to develop new public procurement policies to sustainably source forest-intensive commodities like palm oil, soy, beef and timber. This is expected to have a significant market impact by leveraging the buying power of some of the world’s largest economies.
These announcements form part of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for action to keep global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius by reducing emissions, moving money, pricing pollution, strengthening resilience and mobilizing new coalitions. Forests is one of eight areas identified as critical in the fight against climate change.