By Justin Adams, Executive Director of Tropical Forest Alliance
2nd February 2020
The launch of the FACT (Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade) Dialogue is - for me - a genuine signal of change by governments and a cause for optimism that we can turn the tide on commodity-driven deforestation.
The intensive production of commodities such as palm oil, beef, soy, and paper & pulp still accounts for the majority of tropical deforestation, despite the best efforts and willingness of many highly capable, motivated people, businesses, governments, producers, consumers and NGOs around the world.
It is now universally accepted that there is no solution to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss without ending tropical deforestation. But this is a highly complex problem. Solutions are not simple nor easy. These commodities underpin the global food production system and the global consumer economy. They also sustain the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers and local communities, and are key industries supporting the economies of many producer countries.
The route out of this conundrum is - yes - to transition towards more sustainable land use practices, but in a way that opens up new opportunities for investment, for jobs and livelihoods in forests, land use and agriculture, and which can help grow sustainable economies.
In this context, it is plain to see that voluntary corporate action by individual companies - as we have seen in the last decade - is simply not going to be enough to address this challenge or kick-start this transition.
What we have learned through our work at the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) is that to achieve any progress in this space requires many people - communities, businesses, investors, governments and activists - often with divergent goals - to come together and collaborate and agree to act. Solving complex problems like deforestation can only be achieved through what we call ‘collective action’.
And this starts with a willingness to listen to others. To learn from what others have done. And to build on and scale the successes they’ve had.
The FACT Dialogue, launched today, represents a unique - potentially a game-changing - opportunity to accelerate change.
It will take a bold and innovative approach, one which has been carefully designed by the COP26 Presidency to maximise the chance for highly successful outcomes.
For the first time, we will be able to ensure that all relevant parties have a voice and a space to contribute to the decision-making process. TFA will facilitate a series of Multi-stakeholder Consultations, convening a process in which all parties can engage and be heard, can have meaningful involvement, and can contribute different perspectives, solutions and best practices.
A Global Multi-stakeholder Taskforce will ensure that these voices, insights and recommendations feed directly into government-to-government dialogues.
With just 10 months until COP26, we have an opportunity to do something transformational - this can be a game-changing moment. To create significant progress, to align us all to long-term sustainable trade and finance principles, and set in motion action that can continue to deliver long after Glasgow 2021.
Success will require that we normalise new, more sustainable dynamics so that ‘business-as-usual’ incentivises the countries (and farmers) who produce commodities - while simultaneously conserving/restoring forests and disincentivising the production that is leading to deforestation. And in doing so, ensure that the economies which have a sustainable relationship with forests are the ones that thrive and grow.
There is already significant momentum building. Change is happening - and faster than expected. There are already many positive examples at both the local and jurisdictional level of sustainable land-use practices being adopted at scale by progressive producers and their customers, working together to create lasting change to slow down and reverse deforestation, while protecting jobs, livelihoods, communities and food security in a just and fair way.
Furthermore, behaviours are changing quickly - on both the supply and demand sides. Progressive consumer goods companies are responding to changing consumer demand for verified sustainably-sourced soy, palm oil, beef and paper. And enlightened producers and suppliers are moving quickly to meet this demand.
We need to turn ‘collective ambition’ into ‘collective action’ - to seize this moment to reset the balance, and accelerate the transition to a more sustainable, just, forest-positive future.