Almost three years after its adoption, the New York Declaration on Forests remains a landmark moment in the global fight to eliminate deforestation. With now more than 190 governments, businesses, civil society organisations – including WWF and Unilever – committing to ending commodity driven deforestation by 2020, it created unprecedented momentum in support of existing efforts to transform forest-risk commodity supply chains, including the Deforestation Resolution of the Consumer Goods Forum. This momentum was reinforced by the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement the following year.
These commitments are important and progress has been made. But, it is becoming increasingly clear that we must intensify and accelerate our efforts if we are to have any chance of meeting our 2020 goal. WWF’s Living Forests Report predicts that up to 170 million hectares of additional deforestation could occur by 2030, with expanding agriculture – including large and small scale livestock, palm oil and soy production – being the biggest cause.
The good news is that strong efforts are being made and new pathways are being forged, including those laid out by the latest report by Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, the Commodities and Forests Agenda 2020. This document lists ten priority areas for company executives, policy-makers and civil society leaders to consider in their efforts to accelerate progress in addressing commodity-driven deforestation. It highlights that when stakeholders work together to deploy resources in coordination and at scale, extraordinary change is possible. It recognises that plans need to be tailored to the local context and align with national and regional priorities, and that any effort to protect forests will need to include local communities and support farmers, who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The community of action must be broadened to engage the financial sector, support new approaches to sustainable land-use at the jurisdictional level, and bring consumers and supply chains from emerging markets along on the journey
Unilever and WWF know from experience the power of collaboration. Our organizations have worked together and with others for many years to advance the forest agenda. In 2004, we helped to co-found the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), with the aim of transforming the market to make sustainable palm oil the norm. More recently, we have worked closely together as part of the High Carbon Stock Approach – a methodology that distinguishes forest areas for protection from degraded lands with low carbon and biodiversity values that can be earmarked for agricultural development and one that underpins numerous corporate commitments to ending deforestation in commodity supply chains. Now we join many other partners of Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 in our shared interest in jurisdictional sustainability – where strong government commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the power of global agricultural supply chains can combine to reduce deforestation and improve agricultural productivity and livelihoods within a distinct political geography.
Forest protection has been a cornerstone of the conservation efforts at WWF and the newly established Food Practice will work with farmers in forest frontiers to optimise yields, restore degraded lands and gain access to markets. WWF is also working to increase awareness of the impact of the food choices consumers make.
We recognize the complexity of the problem. We know the solutions are not easy and understand that tropical deforestation is part of the broader sustainable development nexus of sustainable rural development, food security, and climate change. But we must not let this complexity stop us in our tracks. We must urgently capitalize on the momentum that we have built.
We made commitments, signed declarations, and have made significant progress with implementation. But what we have done is not enough. As we approach the two year anniversary of the Paris Agreement, 2020 is just on the horizon. The clock is ticking and we must accelerate progress, together, now.
Kavita Prakash-Mani, Practice Leader, Markets & Foods, WWF
Jeff Seabright, Chief Sustainability Officer, Unilever