Selected category: Deforestation

Shoddy CIFOR publication on indigenous peoples’ rights abuses gets the facts wrong

Indigenous People Day at COP23 | Photo by UNClimateChange

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) held a press conference during COP 23 in Bonn to launch a new publication, “Rights abuse allegations in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation.”

But the research underlying this sensationalistic headline is fundamentally flawed. Not only is their publication factually wrong in many places, but the peer-review process failed to identify numerous weaknesses in the analysis. A rights-based approach for REDD+ was already enshrined in the UNFCCC COP 19’s decision on the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ in 2013. One could argue that it actually goes even further back to the Cancun Safeguard decision at COP 16 in 2010.

Below are the five primary issues in the report. (Note: The rest of this piece assumes readers are generally familiar with the points made in the CIFOR publication and very familiar with REDD+ within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UNFCCC.)

  1. The mafia, not REDD+ supporters, are killing indigenous and community leaders

The biggest problem with CIFOR’s publication is they fail to identify who is murdering indigenous and community leaders trying to protect their rights and forests, which gives the impression that it’s people connected to REDD+.

But the researchers say in footnote 2 they did not attempt to investigate the veracity of the allegations:

“As this review refers only to published sources, it does not include more recent allegations or attempts to evaluate the veracity or present status of each case (including whether corrective measures have since been taken), …”

If they would have done more research, they would have found that the majority did not have anything to do with a REDD+ process or rise to an actual “rights abuse” definition. Global Witness documented 200 killings in 2016, and 97 so far in 2017, and identified the biggest violators as mafias involved in illegal logging, mining, and agribusiness – not REDD+ proponents murdering indigenous and community activists.

  1. CIFOR’s publication relies on unreliable sources

Some of CIFOR’s sourcing for its publication is untrustworthy. For example, REDD-Monitor.com has a clear anti-REDD+ agenda and its funders include a who’s who list of groups with strong anti-REDD+ positions. Its About page calls REDD+ a “hairbrained scheme to allow continued greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels by offsetting these emissions against ‘avoided deforestation’ in the Global South.”

  1. CIFOR’s article’s peer-review is weak

While many of the reviewers are knowledgeable about rights and the REDD+ field, they are not the people who are most well-acquainted with UNFCCC REDD+ decisions.

  1. UNFCCC REDD+ uses a rights-based approach

REDD+ negotiators, indigenous peoples representatives, and civil society organizations spent eight years creating comprehensive guidance for REDD+, called the Warsaw Framework for REDD+.

The Warsaw Framework includes the “Cancun Safeguards” and also mandates reporting on how the safeguards are addressed and respected. The Cancun Safeguards were agreed to in 2010 and were one of the first REDD+ decisions that guided all subsequent decisions.

The Cancun Safeguards was one of the first decisions to reference the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (also known as “UNDRIP”) in an international agreement. Nearly all of the world’s countries approved the decision and the insertion of a reference to UNDRIP forced many countries who had not previously acknowledged the Declaration to do as much.

  1. The Warsaw Framework for REDD+ does not include project-based REDD+

A significant part of the “allegations” and “potential” negative examples explored in the article are linked to REDD+ projects, which again, are not covered by the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. But do a simple word search for “projects” in all of the UNFCCC REDD+ decisions and you’ll see the word does not appear once. That’s because implicitly, UNFCCC REDD+ is meant for jurisdictional REDD+ programs – not one-off REDD+ projects.

Suggestions for moving forward

CIFOR and the REDD+ community should consider a few steps to make amends for their inaccurate publication.

  • CIFOR should consider writing its own research paper on the dozens, if not hundreds, of indigenous leaders and forest activists that are murdered every year defending their rights and the forests.
  • CIFOR should not treat REDD Monitor as a legitimate resource for academic research.
  • CIFOR should improve its “peer-review” process and ensure information is, per its tagline, “accurate.”

Vigilance will always be needed to ensure that no abuses of indigenous rights occur in the context of REDD+ readiness and implementation. One such violation is one too many.

However, such risks have long been identified and are already being addressed, not least because indigenous groups have effectively used national and international REDD+ processes to advance recognition of their rights.

Sensationalized publications based on unsubstantiated allegations do nobody any good, and divert attention from documented rights violations and murders committed by actors seeking to destroy forests – not by REDD+ proponents who are eager to work with indigenous leaders to protect them.

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Part II:  Amazon Hydroelectrics, the UN Climate Treaty and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – will greed and corruption derail the international climate negotiations?

Santo Antônio Dam under construction in the state of Rondônia, Brazil, 2009 | Photo: Wiki Commons

Brazil’s climate change negotiators are trying to throw the best hope for at-scale finance for stopping deforestation under the bus to ensure a big payday for bogus carbon credits from Amazon dams and other Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects  — benefitting the scandal-plagued national power company Eletrobrás at the expense of the Amazon. (See EDF and Brazilian partners report.) There are far better ways to combat climate change.

A Better Mousetrap

One of the best examples of how to do it, ironically, is what Brazil and Amazon states have actually done in reducing Amazon deforestation since 2004. Government ramped up enforcement, recognized indigenous territories and protected forests for other communities, and consumer goods companies like Walmart told their suppliers they needed zero-deforestation commodities. The result was a 70% reduction in deforestation by 2016 that kept 3.65 billion tons CO₂ out of the atmosphere – on the order of what the European Union achieved, only in one developing country. But positive incentives for forest protection called for repeatedly in legislation never materialized, so pushback from the big ranchers’ and farmers’ caucus in the Congress has put all of these gains at serious risk, and deforestation started to tick up again.

There is a lot at stake here, for the atmosphere as well as the forest. New research shows that much more cost effective climate change mitigation than anyone suspected – 11 billion tons of CO2 per year till 2030 — can come from “natural climate solutions”, mostly from stopping tropical deforestation and forest degradation. This is almost 40% of the mitigation needed by 2030 to have a 66% or better chance of keeping warming below 2°C, according to the authors.

Bringing jurisdictional reductions in deforestation and forest degradation into carbon markets could generate the funds that Brazil needs to end Amazon deforestation and effect the transformation to low-carbon sustainable agriculture. 

Reducing and ultimately stopping large-scale deforestation is fully feasible. We know this because Brazil and the Amazon states have done it. They have taken reductions targets below historical levels, and made world-leading reductions while increasing cattle and soy production – historically the major drivers of deforestation (Figure 1).  Making emissions reductions at the scale of a state or region or country is much more like the EU or California cap-and-trade systems than an offset project. It’s actually systemic climate change mitigation. Bringing jurisdictional reductions in deforestation and forest degradation into carbon markets could generate the funds that Brazil needs to end Amazon deforestation and effect the transformation to low-carbon sustainable agriculture. Transparent accounting, rigorous double-entry bookkeeping to avoid double counting, and fair benefit sharing will be critical to making it work, but are also completely feasible. Doing sustained, large-scale deforestation reduction would also allow Brazil to call for more ambitious goals for other big emitter countries, and create cost-effective opportunities to make that happen. A revamped CDM could then channel funds to the least developed countries that most need them.

Figure 1. Brazil annual Amazon deforestation, soy and cattle production 1996 – 2016 (source: Stabile, M. 2017. Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM); Brazil National Space Research Institute – INPE/PRODES; Brazilian Geographical and Statistical Institute – IBGE PPM and PAM, Amazon Fund.

Operation Car Wash and Chico Mendes

So why wouldn’t any country with a lot of forest to protect, and potentially a lot to gain from it, want to continue a winning streak? Well, as Brazil’s experience shows, there’s a lot less opportunity for corruption in reducing deforestation than there is in, say, building dams. Carbon credit for Amazon dams fits right in with the massive corruption, “Operation Car Wash”, super-sketchy side of Brazil. World-leading emissions reductions from controlling Amazon deforestation are an example what we could call the Chico Mendes side of the country. Brazil has always had these two sides. Corruption is endemic but so is innovative public policy. Brazil’s world-class AIDs program, which has kept infection rates far below other early hotspots; the sugar cane ethanol program that gave Brazil the biggest flex-fuel automotive fleet in the world; internationally recognized high-tech remote sensing monitoring of deforestation; and former President Lula’s poverty reduction programs are all examples.

Brazil has an exceptional opportunity to become an economic/environmental innovator and global leader of truly transformative impact – a 21st century environmental/economic superpower — if it succeeds in creating real economic value for living forests. What Acre Governor Tião Viana calls “the low-carbon, high social equity economy” shows the way to zero deforestation, sustainable commodity and family farmer agriculture, and sustainable, prosperous forest communities.

Which side of Brazil’s Jekyll-Hyde political character will win? When Chico Mendes was alive, most people would have probably picked the Car Wash side. Along with ever-increasing numbers of Brazilians, I’d pick Chico’s side.

Both sides are on display at the international climate negotiations, where Brazilian negotiators are pushing hard for deeply flawed CDM projects including Eletrobrás’s Amazon dam boondoggles. Which side wins won’t only affect Brazilians. It will make a real difference to the atmosphere, and to us.

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Amazon Hydroelectrics, the UN Climate Treaty and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) – will greed and corruption derail the international climate negotiations?

Belo Monte Dam under construction on the Xingu River in the state of Pará, Brazil in 2013 | Photo credit: Letícia Leite-ISA

Brazil’s climate policy theater: Brazil climate negotiators fight for carbon credit payout for scandal-plagued national power company Eletrobrás and Amazon mega-hydroelectrics, block carbon finance for ending Amazon deforestation.     

Behind the headline-grabbing news about Brazilian political corruption, Brazilian climate change negotiators are busy pushing proposals that could seriously damage important new climate change agreements – and shut the door on much-needed finance for stopping deforestation.

New market mechanisms in the UN Paris Agreement and in the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for Civil Aviation (CORSIA) could provide money Brazil needs to protect its rainforest, including protecting heavily threatened indigenous territories twice the size of California. The new mechanisms could also help other tropical countries stop deforestation. That would be great news for the global atmosphere and for the people who live in the forests.

But Brazil’s negotiators are dead set against it. Instead, they’re fighting hard to preserve the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), a relic of the Kyoto Protocol. Global climate change champions California and the European Union have largely or entirely shut the CDM out of their markets because they’ve concluded, rightfully, that its claims to environmental integrity have lost credibility.

Brazilian negotiators say the CDM is the gold standard for environmental quality, and reducing deforestation is too risky for carbon credit. A new report by EDF and Brazilian partners – along with a plethora of other analyses — reaches a different conclusion.

Bogus Carbon Credit for Amazon dams

The CDM was created in 1997 by the Kyoto Protocol to allow emissions reductions projects in developing countries to generate tradeable carbon credits, called “Certified Emissions Reductions” (CERs), which, the Protocol specifies, could be used by industrialized countries to help meet their emissions targetsduring the years 2008-2012. But since new targets for these countries didn’t take effect under the Kyoto Protocol, CER prices plummeted for lack of buyers. Brazil has a big portfolio of projects that are generating currently zero-value CERs that could turn into real money if the new market mechanisms of the Paris Agreement and CORSIA accept CDM credits. No wonder they like the CDM.

Three Amazon dams – Santo Antônio, Jirau and Teles Pires – are Brazil’s biggest CDM projects, and say a lot about what’s wrong with the mechanism.

Starting in 2012 affiliates of Brazil’s state power company, Eletrobrás, registered the mega-hydroelectric dams in the Amazon as CDM projects. They said that the dams would reduce greenhouse gas emissions that would have otherwise happened, and that since they were big, risky projects, they wouldn’t be financially viable unless they got the carbon credit. The CDM approved the dams, issued millions of CERs for them, and stands ready to issue hundreds of millions more.

Carbon Credit for Corruption?

But, a little later, these dams were implicated in the “Operation Car Wash” investigation, probably the largest corruption investigation in the world. The investigation first uncovered bid rigging, bribery and kickbacks worth billions of dollars in state oil company Petrobrás. It has now convicted scores of politicians and top executives at Brazil’s biggest companies. Eletrobrás executives engaged in exactly the same schemes in the three Amazon dams and other projects, according to whistleblowers. One former officer of an Eletrobrás subsidiary has been sentenced to more than forty years in prison for bribery, money laundering, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, and participation in a criminal organization, and similar charges are pending against others.

Eletrobrás’s stock price crashed as a result. US investors brought suit against the company, now pending in federal court in New York. They allege that Eletrobrás publicly claimed it was keeping clean books and building legitimate energy projects, while in fact concealing massive corruption and kickbacks. The dams ran up billions in cost overruns (allegedly to pay the bribes and kickbacks) at the investors’ expense.

Meanwhile, while it told the CDM that carbon finance was crucial for the dams to go forward, the company went ahead and built the dams.

Certified Emission Reductions market price crashed after the end of 2012 | Source: eex.com

The dams are operating today with basically zero carbon finance, because the CERs became virtually worthless after the end-of-2012 the price crash. If the dams in fact caused any emissions reductions, they did it without money from the CERs – so they  would have happened anyway. But, in fact the dams never caused any emissions reductions – the decision to build them was political, not economic. Opportunities for bribes and kickbacks were by all indications a key factor. It’s not surprising Eletrobrás and affiliates never told its investors that it needed carbon credit for the dams to pay off – the credits were just icing on the cake.

In 2016, KLP, one of the world’s largest investment funds, managing over $36 billion in pension funds in Norway, decided to exclude investments in Eletrobrás, citing “unacceptable risk of gross corruption. According to the company's financial reports to US authorities, Eletrobrás contracts with suppliers have been overbilled during a period of almost seven years, with the excess funds paid out to Brazilian politicians, political parties and company executives.”

That the CDM approved the dam projects at all is a serious indictment of its rules. Lots of other analyses have concluded that this mechanism needs serious overhaul or phase-out. See my next post for a better approach to international collaboration on climate change mitigation.

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How will forests be on the “menu” at UN Bonn climate talks?

The 2017 UN climate talks will take place from November 6 to 17 in Bonn, Germany | Photo: Pixabay

This year’s global climate conference (COP23) is upon us and will be an interesting mix of Fijian diplomacy and Kölsch beer. As I do every year, in this year’s pre-COP blog I lay out what will be happening during the COP related to REDD+ in the negotiations and what I hope to hear about in the hallways and many side events.

The COP23 conference is expected to be a working COP as parties make the necessary progress in rule writing to meet the 2018 deadline of a final rulebook. There will also be a lot of news about non-state actors – the private sector, states like California, and other non-federal entities – being discussed as a reaction to Trump’s reckless decision to leave the Paris Agreement.

For a good overview of how we are doing in with respect to the climate change and forest sector, I suggest reading this year’s New York Declaration on Forests report. It includes a good review on progress in the private sector (or lack thereof) and funding for forest conservation – and activities causing deforestation.

But, back to the UNFCCC …

REDD+ in the negotiation agenda

After a year’s hiatus from the COP agenda, REDD+ will make an expected brief appearance in the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) agenda the first week during discussions about the “coordination of REDD+ finance”. This is a leftover item from the Warsaw REDD+ Framework decision, when parties agreed to not create a “REDD+ Committee” to coordinate REDD+ finance as some parties wished, but rather annual informal and voluntary meetings during the mid-year subsidiary body negotiations (SBs) for 4 years to share experiences about REDD+ financing. Many of the attendees from parties to observers would agree that these informal meetings were of little value.

In this COP, negotiators are scheduled to reevaluate whether to continue the SBs or create the REDD+ Committee. I doubt there will be interest in either of them. However, the agenda item could be used as an opening to push a party’s or coalition’s not completely related proposal for financing REDD+, such as a centralized registry for REDD+ transactions.

REDD+ related negotiation items: transparency, NDCs and market

Much of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+ addressed transparency. After following initial discussions in the broader transparency agenda item that is part of the APA, many parties and negotiators are worried that those negotiations might dilute what was achieved for REDD+. Transparency in REDD+ thus far includes the Lima REDD+ Information Hub where countries submit their National REDD+ Strategies, Reference Emission Level (REL) submissions, Safeguard Information System summaries, and results. The process established for reviewing the RELs, which includes a technical assessment and publication of that assessment, is very important. The fact that the new US negotiator for transparency is the former REDD+ negotiator for the US, however, could be very helpful to ensure no dilution occurs.

Many of the party submissions on producing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mentioned the land use sector explicitly, and REDD+ implicitly. The more detail related to the inclusion of the land use sector in NDCs the better, but it might be hard for negotiators to come to agreement on the extent or nature of those details.

The market negotiations under the SBSTA will continue; those on Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement and Internationally Transferred Mitigation Outcomes (ITMOs) are particularly relevant. More explicit guidance on no double counting/claiming is needed to ensure environmental integrity for REDD+ and ITMOs that might come from any other sector or project. REDD+ in itself, however, does not need explicit language in Article 6.2.

Other noticeable REDD+ financing developments

The Green Climate Fund recently approved guidance and $500 million for REDD+ results based payments, which I expect to be discussed substantially during the COP. Although the amount is not sufficient, the methodologies the GCF agreed upon will be relevant to other REDD+ finance decisions in the future.

Private finance for advancing deforestation free commodities is another hot topic and I expect to learn more concrete details about the andgreen.fund that was announced earlier in the year. Specifically, I’d like more clarity on how they will be defining jurisdictions advancing in becoming deforestation free, which is a requirement of the fund to determine what private sector actors will be funded.

This year’s report on New York Declaration on Forests provides extensive insight on the current state of forest finance. The report reviews the billions of pledges, commitments, and amounts spent to advance REDD+. More interesting is the amount of “grey” funding available from public subsidies and private sector investment for the land sector. The amount of “grey” funding greatly exceeds direct REDD+ funding and needs to be changed or channeled to activities that support forest conservation.

Indigenous Peoples in the negotiations

Indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests.

Indigenous Peoples are hoping for a decision on the Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge platform that will support the inclusion of them and their solutions to mitigating and adapting to climate change. A number of parties from Ecuador to Canada are prioritizing and supporting this platform. While interested in all agenda items, Indigenous Peoples will also probably focus on the NDC negotiation to ensure that the need to include them in the development and revision of the NDCs is explicitly mentioned. Many party submissions on the topic included the need for NDCs to discuss how they consulted Indigenous Peoples and other groups in their development.

Indigenous leaders from the Amazon basin will be promoting a new scientific analysis which found, that from a regional level, indigenous territories have rates of deforestation eight times less than external forests. Hopefully, parties will take note of this and include more overt references to the importance of supporting and including Indigenous Peoples in decisions.

Reporting on progress by countries implementing REDD+

While not formally on the negotiation agenda, I expect a number of countries at their pavilions or in other events to present the final versions of their National REDD+ Strategies. Parties have already submitted 25 Reference Emission Levels (REL) and I expect a few more to arrive during the COP or before the end of the year. Discussions around best practices in REL construction and lessons learned will be a popular topic – amongst the technical people at least.

The richest presentations and discussions related to REDD+ will likely happen on November 12th during a set of panels on forests as part of the Action Agenda, now called the Marrakech Partnership for Climate Action. During this event, I hope to hear more about how the private sector is implementing the 700+ deforestation-free related commitments they’ve taken, but largely have yet to implement.

A “working” COP

Many expect no big decisions on forests – like a Warsaw Framework for REDD+ – to be agreed upon at this COP. However, I would like to see a decision on the platform for Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge, which would be helpful for REDD+.

The parties should make progress on advancing the markets, NDC, and transparency negotiations that are indirectly related, but no less important, to REDD+. Decisions on those topics at the COP next year, as mandated in the Paris Agreement, are essential for continuing the implementation of REDD+ and unlocking necessary finance.

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Temer’s rollback of Brazil’s environmental and indigenous protections threatens livelihoods and world’s climate goals

Guest authors: Juliana Splendore, EDF climate change and indigenous issues consultant in Brazil, and Joelson Felix, Communications Officer of COIAB – a Brazilian indigenous organization representing indigenous peoples in the Brazilian Amazon

An aerial view of the Brazilian Amazon under a pouring rain | Photo by Juliana Splendore

One year into his presidency, Brazilian President Temer is leading a dismantling of crucial protections for Brazil’s indigenous territories and the environment.

New policies the president recently approved put at risk indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands, and could open the flood gates for Amazon deforestation, which has been rising dramatically in the past few years.

The president’s actions, aimed at winning the favor of the powerful agriculture lobby in Congress, threaten the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who live in the forests, as well as Brazil’s international climate leadership and the world’s ability to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

One of the world’s largest tropical forest areas, the Brazilian Amazon is home to more than 200 groups of indigenous peoples. Nearly half of the Brazilian Amazon, an area about five times the size of California, is designated as indigenous lands or protected natural areas, and as such is protected from development. These indigenous and protected areas and their indigenous populations were key to Brazil’s decreasing its deforestation by 70% from 2005 to 2014, which has made it the world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, these gains are now at risk. Over the last two years, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon nearly doubled from 4,500 km2 in the period of 2011-2012 to 8,000 km2 in the period of 2015-2016, according to the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The significant rise in deforestation caused the Norwegian government this year to cut its forest protection payments to the Amazon Fund to about $35 million, $65 million less than in 2016. This cut directly affects the indigenous populations in the Amazon, who are among the main beneficiaries of the Fund.

Rollbacks in indigenous lands and environmental protections

Since he took office August 31, 2016, scandal-plagued Brazilian President Temer approved new measures and federal rules aimed at helping him gain critical support from the advocates of agribusiness and large rural landowners, known as the ruralistas, who make up one of the most powerful caucuses in the National Congress with over 200 seats.

Temer has created a new federal rule to be implemented by Brazilian Administration that can be used to deny many indigenous peoples the right to their lands. It stipulates that indigenous peoples do not have the right to their lands if they were not occupying them in October 1988, when the current constitution came into effect. Essentially, it denies the right of the indigenous peoples who lack sufficient documentation to prove that they were expelled from their lands during that time. As a result, many pending requests by indigenous groups for titles to their traditional territories could be denied because of their earlier expulsions. Another part of the new rule also prohibits the expansion of existing indigenous territories. Finally, the new rule also allows certain types of infrastructure projects to be permitted on their titled territories without any consultation.

A new short-term measure signed by President Temer (MP759) – which can be easily turned into a law – is expected to substantially intensify deforestation in the Amazon region. The new measure facilitates the legalization of public lands that were illegally occupied in the period of 2004 – 2011 and increases the size of land parcels that can be claimed. This measure could result in the loss of millions of hectares in the Amazon to land speculators.

Indigenous peoples in a training organized by ISA (Instituto Socioambiental) | Photo by Juliana Splendore

Need for more international attention and support

Taken together, these developments in Brazil endanger not only the livelihoods of indigenous populations, but also the significant amount of forest carbon stored in indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon, threatening the world’s ability to stabilize global climate.

The silver lining here is that the advocacy efforts led by the indigenous movement, environmentalists, Norway, and some international organizations are playing a key role in  mitigating the effects of the policies and guidance approved by Temer.

Now, indigenous peoples need even more support from international actors, in particular from EU governments and international companies committed to reduce deforestation in their supply chains. The governments and business leaders need to tell President Temer to roll back the new rules and measures.

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Deepening collaboration: Aligning private sector and government commitments to tackle deforestation

By Breanna Lujan, EDF Policy Analyst, and Brian Schaap, Forest Trends Senior Associate

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest, photo by Neil Palmer (Flickr: CIAT)

When it comes to reducing deforestation, companies and national governments tend to operate in their respective silos. Effectively reducing forest loss, however, will require collaboration between both corporations and governments. According to a report published today, Collaboration Toward Zero Deforestation: Aligning Corporate and National Commitments in Brazil and Indonesia, companies and governments are beginning to work together toward their shared goals of reducing deforestation.

The report presents case studies that explore the ways in which companies and governments are collaborating, and highlights recommendations for how this collaboration could be strengthened—with implications not only for the two focal countries of Brazil and Indonesia, but for tropical forest countries worldwide. Aligning corporate commitments and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – official climate action plans submitted by parties of the Paris Agreement–is of critical importance to meeting national deforestation reduction and reforestation goals. Collaboration between companies and governments will not only enable each sector to achieve their respective deforestation reduction goals, but will also pave the way for future partnerships and enhanced action.

Need and opportunity for public-private partnerships

Deforestation continues to account for around 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, while destroying biodiversity and threatening livelihoods. In 2014, Brazil and Indonesia together accounted for 38% of global tropical deforestation—with the majority of deforestation in each country driven by commercial agriculture.

Many companies and governments have committed to reduce deforestation. As of early 2017, 447 companies have made commitments to reduce deforestation in their supply chains, according to research by Forest Trends’ Supply Change initiative. Concurrently, of the 191 countries that submitted Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an estimated 80% included plans to address the land sector in their mitigation targets.

Collaboration between these two sectors is essential: corporations need a regulatory and policy environment conducive to their reduced deforestation commitments—which governments can provide; and governments would benefit tremendously from the participation of key corporate actors in order to achieve the reduced deforestation and forest landscape restoration goals put forth in their NDCs.

Finding Synergies: Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia

Brazil

Brazil’s  NDC aims to reduce emissions 37% below 2005 levels by 2025, and 43% below 2005 levels by 2030—and outlines the role that reducing deforestation and increasing forest landscape restoration could play to achieve these emission reduction targets. Many companies with operations in Brazil developed zero deforestation commitments and are collaborating with the government and NGOs in multi-stakeholder initiatives such as Mato Grosso’s Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) program. The PCI aims to reduce deforestation, increase reforestation, and increase sustainable agricultural and livestock production—all goals that align with Brazil’s NDC. Companies including Marfrig and Amaggi have signed on to this initiative and are contributing to the design, implementation, and mobilization of finance to support the PCI. Another PCI participant, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), created a de-risking fund to increase cattle intensification and reforestation. Through interactions via the PCI and other partnerships, the private sector is supporting the government to accelerate the implementation of the country’s NDC goals, and revealing the ways in which these collaborations can be scaled-up and amplified throughout the country.

Indonesia

The government of Indonesia, in addition to enacting several policies focusing on peatland and forest conservation and restoration, has made an unconditional commitment in its NDC to reduce emissions 29% below business-as-usual (BAU) estimated emissions by 2030, and a conditional commitment—contingent upon international support, including finance—to reduce emissions 41% below BAU by 2030. Meanwhile, companies committed to reducing deforestation in their supply chains have made No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) commitments of their own. Many of these companies are collaborating with subnational governments in jurisdictional, multi-stakeholder initiatives aimed at achieving their shared goals of reducing deforestation. The Central Kalimantan Jurisdictional Commitment to Sustainable Palm Oil is one of the most advanced public-private collaborations to address deforestation and emissions in Indonesia, and is bringing together representatives from local governments, NGOs, indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers, and oil palm growers and buyers toward the goal of certifying all palm oil produced in the province by 2019—with Unilever as a particularly active private sector participant.

Recommendations

Lessons from Brazil and Indonesia show that corporate zero deforestation commitments—when buttressed by strong government policies and enhanced by multi-stakeholder partnerships—can help countries reach their goals of reducing deforestation and enhancing forest landscape restoration. This type of collaboration is of increasing importance and has come to the fore in countries such as the United States, where businesses and local and state governments are teaming up to uphold the spirit of the country’s Paris Agreement pledge, despite the US federal government’s announcement to leave the Agreement.

Based on the findings of the report, companies and governments from tropical forest countries worldwide should consider the following recommendations to promote more effective public-private partnerships toward reducing deforestation:

Companies

  • Advocate for policies that support corporate deforestation-free goals
  • Participate in existing multi-stakeholder initiatives and help them scale-up and replicate
  • Support efforts to strengthen and enforce regulations that can help to reduce deforestation

Governments

  • Conduct transparent consultations on elaborating and implementing NDCs, and solicit corporate input
  • Identify ways that private sector actors and subnational initiatives can support NDCs
  • Support private sector supply chain sustainability improvements through targeted policies, incentives, and financial mechanisms
  • Remove barriers to more stringent conservation efforts by companies
  • Better align national definitions of ‘forest’ and ‘deforestation’ with private sector zero-deforestation policies

For more details, please view the full report.

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