Deforestation is one of the drivers of desertification and climate change and it should be thus at the centre of the global climate discussions. The New York Declaration of Forests that was formalized at last year’s U.N. Climate Summit codifi es the willingness of 180 governments, companies, indigenous community networks and civil society organizations to halve natural forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030.
A panel discussion was held on Sept. 23 this year, to review the accomplishments over the last year towards achieving the goal of ending deforestation for commercial agriculture and developing more sustainable practices for the businesses that rely on land. The companies that signed on agreed to reduce the environmental and high carbon impact of several key commercial agricultural products such as palm oil, timber, cattle, and soy.
Deforestation is the second leading contributor to carbon emissions after the burning of fossil fuels, according to the Nature Conservancy, a conservation organization committed to land and water. Forests protect soil from erosion, produce oxygen, store carbon dioxide, and help control climate. When trees are cut down, the carbon dioxide is released into the air.
Over 60 million hectares of tropical forest have been converted to agriculture since 2000, according to Supply Challenge, which tracks progress on the New York Declaration.
Talking about keeping forests on the agenda, Eduardo Goncalves, International Communications Director for The Climate Group says, “Climate really seems to be at the heart of the discussion and it’s absolutely right that forestry is a key element of that debate as well.”Panelists discussed the tremendous effort that has gone into getting the issue of deforestation on the climate agenda and the importance for the private sector to buy-in to the ambitions of the Declaration.
Stephen Donofrio, with Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace, in giving a progress report noted that just under 20 percent of the company endorsers are based in Southeast Asia; manufacturers and retailers who are receiving the most consumer scrutiny are mainly in North America; and food product sector makes up onethird of endorser companies.
In order for the vision of the Declaration to work, Dominic Waughray, member of the executive committee of the World Economic Forum, praised the efforts of all participants, but noted that this is “a governmental issue” because as he said, they are the “stewards in