Author Archives: Dana Miller

Lessons from Brazil on how to turn companies' zero-deforestation commitments into action

By Michelle Mendlewicz, EDF Global Climate 2016 Summer Fellow and Dana Miller, Policy Analyst

Cattle ranching in Brazil | Photo: Scott Bauer via Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of major consumer goods companies that have driven the demand for soy, palm oil, timber & pulp, and beef – the big four commodities that contribute significantly to deforestation – have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains. However, a vast majority haven’t yet acted on their zero-deforestation commitments or reported their progress.

According to a report by Forest Trends’ Supply Change, the majority of companies do not disclose their progress on zero deforestation commitments, with only 23% to 27% of commitments backed-up by data.

An analysis by The Sustainability Consortium found similar results, with 25% to 40% of companies reporting any information on deforestation for beef, soy, and palm oil.

Cutting and burning trees adds as much pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world combined, which is why it’s important that more than 400 companies, including Walmart and Unilever, that have committed to achieving zero net deforestation by 2020 actually follow through on their pledges.

Two examples from Brazil, home to the largest remaining area of rainforest in the world, show that collaboration with governments and civil society can help companies turn their zero-deforestation commitments into action.

Mato Grosso’s ambitious strategy

Brazil successfully reduced Amazon deforestation by about 75% from 2005 to 2013 while maintaining robust growth in beef and soy production. Its success can be largely attributed to joint efforts between companies, government agencies, and environmental communities.

Brazil’s experience shows it takes more than commitments from companies to accomplish zero deforestation — businesses must focus on implementation and monitoring.

An example of this collaboration is Mato Grosso’s “Produce, Conserve, Include” (PCI) strategy, launched at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December 2015. The State of Mato Grosso contributed to 50% of Brazil’s deforestation reduction between 2005 and 2013, while increasing beef and soy production. It is the largest agricultural commodity producer in the Amazon, producing 27% of the soy, 25% of the corn, and 19% of the beef in Brazil. The PCI plan aims to simultaneously reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 90% by 2030, increase agricultural production, and promote socioeconomic inclusion of smallholders and traditional populations.

Major soy and beef merchants Amaggi and JBS, non-governmental organizations such as EDF and partners in Brazil, and the Government of Mato Grosso worked together to develop the plan and continue to collaborate on its implementation.

As PCI’s coordinator stated, the ambitious strategy is only possible because it was “embraced” by society, and due to local partners and international supporters of the initiative.

Brazil’s businesses, governments and civil society successfully reduce deforestation from beef production

Another example of collaboration between businesses, governments and civil society has already shown success in reducing deforestation from commodity supply chains in Brazil. An agreement between Greenpeace and food processing companies in Brazil, Marfrig, JBS, and Minerva, requires farmers to provide information about their suppliers. This information is then cross-checked with government agencies, including the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (Ibama) and the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Ministério Público), to eliminate environmental or socially harmful practices. According to Marfrig, of the 8,303 properties monitored in the Amazon region, 6,471 are approved to supply cattle, while the remaining 1,679 properties are banned.

Meatpacking companies also signed a Term of Adjustment of Conduct (TAC) with the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF) to stop purchasing cattle originating from properties that cause illegal deforestation, are located on indigenous territories, are not registered with the government’s system, or are featured in the Ministry of Labor’s list of labor analogous to slavery.

A study published in 2015 found that both agreements – the one with Greenpeace and the TAC with government agencies – have incentivized behavior change by companies. Ranchers supplying to these companies complied with laws to register their properties with the government’s system two years before nearby ranchers. Only 2% of purchases by JBS were with registered properties before the agreement was signed, while 96% of transactions were with registered companies by 2013. Purchases by slaughterhouses from recently deforested properties fell from 36% in 2009 to 4% in 2013. According to Supply Change, JBS and Marfrig have self-reported 100% progress on commitments to zero-deforestation cattle, among other commitments.

Implementing, monitoring and collaborating on zero-deforestation commitments

Challenges remain, however, in eliminating deforestation from beef supply chains. Marfrig, JBS, and Minerva control around half of beef slaughter in the Amazon, while companies that control the other half have no monitoring systems or commitments in place. The limited scope of the agreements can cause issues including “laundering” – when ranchers raise cattle on noncompliant properties and move the animals to compliant ranchers before selling them to slaughterhouses – and “leakage,” when cattle produced on recently deforested land are sold to slaughterhouses that do not have monitoring systems in place.

Greater collaboration between a larger number of companies, producers and governments within a region can reduce the risk that deforestation will leak to other suppliers.

Brazil’s experience shows that it takes more than commitments from companies to accomplish zero deforestation. In order to achieve real progress, businesses must focus on implementation and monitoring. By collaborating and engaging with government agencies and environmental communities, companies can overcome the challenge of traceability and advance the fight against climate change.

For more information on efforts to reduce deforestation from cattle supply chains, visit

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Indonesia could curb deforestation and increase production with Zero Deforestation Zones

By Dana Miller, Research Analyst and Ruohong Cai, Ph.D. Economist


A smoldering landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit: Ruohong Cai, October, 2015

You may have seen news stories this fall about Indonesia and the blanket of haze choking the country and neighboring countries Singapore and Malaysia. This haze comes from burning carbon rich forests and peat soils for the production of palm oil and other commodities; burning currently releases more greenhouse gases daily than the entire U.S. economy.

To address deforestation and the fires and haze it brings, companies that control 90% of palm oil production have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. Several major palm oil companies have pledged not to clear High Carbon Stock (HCS) lands—high, medium and low density forests—or peatlands for palm oil and other commodities; instead the companies would shift new production to low carbon stock areas, which are young regenerating forest, scrub or cleared or open lands.

The Government of Indonesia pledged to reduce emissions by 26% unilaterally or 41% with international support below a projected "business as usual" baseline by 2020. This year, Indonesia committed to reduce emissions by 29% to 41% below a projected baseline by 2030.

In a new report, Environmental Defense Fund explores how companies could eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by preferentially sourcing palm oil and other commodities from provinces in Indonesia that meet criteria for Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZs).

ZDZs would be districts or provinces that align public and private sector actors and are on a path to reaching zero net emissions from deforestation across their jurisdiction while increasing agricultural production. ZDZs would have strong policies in place consistent with the framework Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Then, companies could source commodities such as timber and palm oil from ZDZs.

For provinces in Indonesia to become ZDZs, local and national governments would have to address the root causes of deforestation.  Specifically, Indonesia would need to:

  • Revise laws that allow and even encourage deforestation; strengthen law enforcement; and address conflicting agendas between local and regional governments, ministries, and powerful private sector actors.
  • Create a definition for ZDZs that fits Indonesia’s national context. The definition would need to put provinces on pathways to produce zero net emissions from deforestation and comply with UN decisions on REDD+.
  • Set up monitoring systems that both the government and private sector would use to enforce deforestation policies and clarify disputed land claims by local communities and plantations.
  • Provide essential economic incentives to producers to reduce deforestation, increase yields on existing plantations, and shift new production to degraded lands.

Figure 1. This spatial map shows that the opportunity costs of the land translated into a minimum carbon price (local-specific) needed to eliminate deforestation in Kalimantan, Indonesia, which varies widely by location from $0 to $100 per ton CO2.

Economic Incentives for Reducing Deforestation in Kalimantan Provinces:

A carbon price could generate much needed economic incentives to reduce deforestation. To predict the carbon price needed to reduce emission from deforestation, EDF performed a 10-year simulation of deforestation in Kalimantan, Indonesia, using the historical relationship between palm oil revenues per hectare and deforestation rates to estimate landowners’ responses to economic incentives.  Kalimantan provides a good case study for Indonesia because it contributes one quarter of Indonesia’s palm oil production.

Based on our empirical analysis, the opportunity cost of conserving forest varies widely across Kalimantan. Figure 1 translates the opportunity cost of the land into a price per ton of carbon.

We further compared the cost in terms of dollars per ton of carbon for reducing emissions from deforestation on low carbon stock (LCS, less than 40 t C/ha) and high carbon stock (HCS, more than 40 t C/ha) lands. In Figure 2, at a carbon price of $10/t CO2e, Kalimantan provinces can reduce 75 million tons (Mt) CO2e per year from LCS areas, 185 MtCO2e from HCS areas, and 260 MtCO2e per year from both HCS and LCS areas. In the latter and highest scenario that conserves both HCS and LCS areas, Kalimantan could reduce emissions from deforestation 74-78% below the scenario without a carbon price.

Figure 2. Estimated cost curves for avoiding emissions from deforestation on high carbon stock lands (red), low carbon stock lands (yellow) and all lands (blue) in Kalimantan, Indonesia. This figure shows that more emissions can be avoided if Kalimantan conserves both high carbon stock and low carbon stock lands.

This result indicates that more emissions can be avoided at a lower cost if Kalimantan conserves portions of all lands, not just high carbon stock lands.

To further illustrate this point, the table below shows that Kalimantan could achieve its contribution to Indonesia’s emission reduction goals of 26% to 41% below business as usual by 2020 at a lower price if both high carbon stock and low carbon stock areas are conserved.

This shows that a “Zero Deforestation Zone” approach focused on an entire landscape has the potential to more cost-effectively reduce emissions than an approach focused on just a particular subset of lands.   This analysis does not consider the potential for “leakage” or shifts of deforestation from one location to another.  Incorporating leakage would lend a further argument for a regional approach that would capture shifts in deforestation across an entire zone.

Table_cost_year_reduction_target (1)


Indonesia has many hurdles to cross before it can level off its rapid deforestation rate and reduce it to zero. But, the haze, health implications, productivity loss and public outrage that ensue from peat fires might just be the wakeup call that Indonesia needs to address its deforestation.


Read more in our paper Zero Deforestation Zones in Indonesia; A proposal to curb deforestation and increase agricultural production.


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3 reasons why the land sector is key to a Paris climate agreement

Trees in a forest

The Paris climate agreement should incorporate the land sector, which includes agriculture and deforestation, in a way that makes best use of its potential for mitigation, adaptation and development. Credit: flickr/final gather

Land use—such as agriculture and forests—accounts for almost a quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

It’s obvious that land use will play a major role in curbing the impact of climate change—and  here are three big reasons why the land sector will be key to an agreement made in Paris:

1) The land sector has huge mitigation potential:

The land sector accounts for about 24% of net global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, it has huge potential to reduce emissions, as well. Forests alone could absorb up to 11% of emissions. The IPCC also estimates that the land sector could provide 20-60% of cumulative mitigation by 2030. Without significant efforts to reduce emissions and enhance sequestration, it will be very difficult to stabilize warming below 2 degrees Celsius.

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Ensuring ambition in the land-use sector through the Paris climate agreement

Representatives from countries around the globe met in Bonn, Germany this month to work on what could be the world’s most grueling but important group project: consolidating 90 pages of text into a global climate agreement to be finalized in Paris this December.

Governments and civil society organizations have more work to do before Paris, including ensuring land use is treated in a simple, flexible and ambitious way in the global agreement.

One sector that could play a fundamental role in the agreement is the land-use sector, which includes agriculture, forestry, wetland management, and other land management practices.

The land-use sector contributes about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has great potential to reduce emissions, remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, improve rural livelihoods, and promote countries’ ability to adapt to a changing climate. The land use sector could also be an important part of countries’ emission reduction targets after 2020, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Read More »

Posted in Agriculture, Forestry, UN negotiations| Leave a comment

Forestry, Agriculture and other Land Use in the Global Climate Agreement


At the UN climate conference in Lima, a group of country negotiators and other experts discussed how to bring forests and other land uses front and center in the global climate agreement to be signed in Paris next year. Above: Panelists Jason Funk (Union of Concerned Scientists), Maria Sanz Sanchez (FAO), Peter Iverson (Denmark), Josefina Brana-Varela (WWF) and Paulo Canaveria (EU) and moderator Patrick Wylie (IUCN) discuss land use in the 2015 agreement with an audience of 120 people. Source: Chris Meyer

Against a backdrop of tree-covered mountains, negotiators from all over the world are meeting for the next two weeks in Lima, Peru for the United Nations annual climate change conference. Before the meeting, Environmental Defense Fund and partners coordinated a workshop in Lima, where a group of country negotiators and other experts discussed how to bring forests and other land uses front and center in the global climate agreement to be signed in Paris next year. Participants agreed that the agreement needs to include land use in a simple, flexible and transparent way to encourage as many countries as possible to take action in this doubly important sector, which both accounts for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide and also absorbs a significant fraction of the world’s carbon emissions every year.

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Posted in Forestry, Lima (COP-20), REDD+, UN negotiations| 1 Response

Indonesian ministries draw on EDF to advance greenhouse-gas accounting capabilities

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made one of his most urgent pleas yet to stop climate change last month, calling climate change “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” — and it was no coincidence he chose to do it in Indonesia.

The island nation is, as Secretary Kerry said, “one of the most vulnerable countries on Earth.” It is already prone to storms, floods, droughts, forest fires, and other extreme weather events, all of which could be exacerbated by climate change. A changing climate could also trigger catastrophic sea level rise that could contaminate Indonesia’s drinking and irrigation systems, and, in some of the worst case scenarios, swallow many of its islands whole.

Indonesia degree of exposure to natural hazards

Indonesia’s vulnerability to climate change. Source: UNOCHA, 2006 in UNDP, 2007.

Needless to say, those sorts of impacts would have dire consequences on the human beings living in Indonesia, the fourth most populous country on earth. However, the nation’s ecosystem would also be in grave danger. Indonesia harbors large reserves of carbon and biodiversity, and is home to the world’s third-largest rainforest and widespread peatlands, flooded soil that stores carbon from thousands of years ago.

But Indonesia also ranks among the top ten countries for its greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of which come from land-use change and forestry. The nation has experienced the greatest increase in forest cover loss from 2000 to 2012, with a high of 20,000 km2 per year (or about 4.9 million acres) between 2011 and 2012 (including harvest of timber and palm oil plantations). The main “driver” of deforestation in Indonesia is clearing for agriculture, particularly for palm oil plantations. Haze from slash and burn agriculture has caused respiratory infections, asthma and other illnesses in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.

Photo Campur 432_web

Experts from EDF and Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change conducted workshops with the Ministry of Agriculture.

The good news is these emerging challenges have prompted Indonesia to recognize the dangers of climate change and its responsibility to act. In 2011, President Yudhoyono committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent below its current trajectory by 2020, or even 41 percent if the country receives international support. The bulk of emission decreases are to come from reducing deforestation and forest degradation.

To demonstrate that they are honoring their commitments, the country needs to collect and analyze data on greenhouse gas emissions following guidelines set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and submit this data in its National Communications for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change (DNPI) asked EDF to help conduct training workshops for two of the agencies primarily responsible for the data, the Ministry of Forestry and Ministry of Agriculture. The workshops detailed each step involved in creating for the UN an inventory of the country’s emissions and removals of greenhouse gasses from agriculture, forestry and other land uses and the mitigation activities it has undertaken. These workshops also facilitated our collaboration and data-sharing capabilities with the Indonesian government, who worked with EDF’s Chief Natural Resource Economist, Ruben Lubowski, and colleagues from other non-governmental organizations to analyze the carbon reduction potential of different policies.


Delegates from the Ministry of Forestry fill out IPCC worksheets to calculate gains and losses of carbon from forests for each province, while EDF and DNPI experts look on.

Accurately accounting for emissions will help Indonesia’s government demonstrate its progress toward reaching its reduction target by 2020, and could position the country to receive international funding for its efforts, including through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), a program that provides economic incentives to protect forests.

In 2010, Norway committed to a $1 billion agreement with Indonesia, with most of the funds contingent on verified emissions reductions from forest protection. Indonesia also prolonged its forest moratorium, which prohibits new licenses for clearing forests after 2011. On the private-industry end, a number of companies that source commodities from Indonesia recently have made their own commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, including Unilever, Wilmar, Kelloggs, and Asia Pulp and Paper.

This alignment between public and private sectors in protecting forests should be reinforced by good quality data, well-structured economic incentives and policies, and ambition. However, much work remains to be done on land-use issues to protect forests and biodiversity, improve livelihoods and food security, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Until then, Indonesia remains, in the words of Secretary Kerry, a country on the “front lines of climate change.”

Posted in Deforestation, REDD+| 3 Responses
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