Preserving and restoring forests is critical to climate action and to meeting global goals. According to the latest IPCC report, about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are tied to deforestation; with up to 20% of all the abatement potential identified in the land-use sector.
Forests are extremely important to food security, water security and livelihoods — 200 million people live in forests and 1.6 billion depend on them for their livelihoods. And as half of the watershed area of the 100 largest cities in the world is forested, forest protection and reforestation in urban watersheds could improve water quality for over 500 million urban dwellers.
Global demand for agricultural and forest commodities is a key driver of deforestation. With the world’s population predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050, it is estimated that 70% more food calories will be needed, while demand for wood products will also continue to increase. Over the past decades, meeting the rising demand for food and consumer goods has often come at the expense of forests, making commercial agriculture the main driver of tropical deforestation. Inefficient production schemes, missing or unclear economic and financial incentives for sustainable choices, poor governance structures and complex supply chains contributed to this outcome. The current haze and forest fire crisis in Indonesia is a clear example of this negative cycle.
An unprecedented level of commitment to reverse deforestation came with last year’s New York Declaration on Forests, which now has about 180 nations, companies, indigenous people and other organizations committed to halve deforestation by 2020 and stop it by 2030, while at the same time achieving ambitious reforestation and forest restoration targets. Yet the most recent review of progress made on the declaration concluded that we need to substantially accelerate and scale up action, particularly at the supply chain level and landscape level.
At the supply chain level we need more commitments by the biggest trading jurisdictions and by those operating in emerging markets, which are the fastest growing markets for forest commodities. Leading corporations, such as the signatories of the New York Declaration on Forests, can contribute by sharing best practices, and modelling the transition from commitments to implementation of procurement policies.
At the landscape level it is critical to move towards models of rural development and domestic economic growth that protect and restore forests on a large scale, as supported by the result of the legal Amazon in Brazil, where agriculture output has been growing while deforestation rates have dropped substantially. A recent review by the Economist magazine ranked Brazil’s successful reduction in deforestation as one of the most effective climate actions of the last decade.
Governments, supported by development partners, financial institutions, agriculture and consumer companies, and civil society organizations, have an important role to achieve landscape-level solutions. The private sector in particular can, through investment capital and technical expertise, increase demand for sustainably produced commodities.
The Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 was developed to help achieve deforestation-free supply chains. Through the TFA 2020 secretariat hosted by the World Economic Forum, it is working with members to convene high-impact partnerships that can create solutions tailored to regional and supply chain needs.
We are also working to increase the connectivity of our members among themselves and with other stakeholders, and to communicate their aspirations, needs and results of that work. The TFA 2020 website is a first public and tangible outcome of that effort. And, we are working on a three-year strategy, to be discussed at our first General Assembly in March 2016. In the meantime, we will continue to work with our partners to scale up action on deforestation-free supply chains.