2017 – The Year in Review

by Bruce Cabarle

In late October, it was announced that we are 1000 days away from the deadline laid out in the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests under which nearly 200 countries, companies and communities pledged to end deforestation by 2020.

Announcements this year suggest we are a long way away from being on track to meet these goals. Global Forest Watch says that 2016 was a spike year for deforestation. Victories combating deforestation in Amazonia are now known to have come at the expense of the world’s largest grasslands as agricultural expansion continues unabated, simply shifting elsewhere. Investments in unsustainable agriculture outpace climate-friendly “green” investments by 40:1.

Scientists say the world’s forests hit a tipping point last year, shifting from being a historical “sink” to becoming a net “source” of carbon emissions to the Earth’s atmosphere and thus ushering in a new state of planetary physics never before experienced by humankind. WWF and RSBP released a report revealing that the UK has a footprint outside its borders the size of Greece in order to feed the people inside its borders, and thus is a major driver of the above startling trends. CDP revealed that up to US$941 billion of turnover in publicly listed companies is dependent on commodities linked to deforestation, yet just 13% of reporting companies have adopted a robust, time-bound zero (net) deforestation commitment.

This makes the work to reverse these trends even more critical and urgent than ever before.

Despite this bleak outlook, there were some important wins for forests this year that warrant mentioning. COP23 in Bonn Germany saw Parties agree to work over the coming years on several issues linking climate change and agriculture, ending a deadlock on this issue that has lasted for many years – a positive for action on forests. The UK and German governments announced funding commitments of a combined $153 million to expand programmes to fight climate change and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. Elsewhere, 23 global companies including Tesco, McDonald’s and Carrefour announced a commitment to support the Brazilian “Cerrado Manifesto” for sustainable soya from that country, a major lever to end conversion of those native grasslands outside of the Amazon Basin. In October, Rabobank and UNEP announced a US $1 billion fund to finance “climate friendly” green agriculture. In March, HRH the Prince of Wales convened a meeting where twelve of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies agreed to an industry Statement of Intent committing them to work in partnership with governments, companies, civil society and other stakeholders, to end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain. This was followed up in November with landmark Joint Frameworks for Action agreed and signed by over 20 companies at COP23 in Bonn to take forward these commitments on deforestation free cocoa in two critical cocoa producing nations, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire.

At Partnerships for Forests, our work to incubate innovative ‘Forest Partnerships’ that catalyse investments in which the private sector, public sector and communities can achieve shared value from forests and sustainable land use resulted in our first-generation portfolio consisting of 19 Forest Partnerships going live this year. This includes: a partnership with agro-industrial company Touton to build a climate smart chocolate supply chain that is the centrepiece of Ghana’s national climate action plan to meet their commitment under the Paris Climate Agreement; the launch of an Expression of Interest (EOI) to develop a premium brand and supply chain for Ethiopian Forest Coffee so as to incentivize the conservation of Ethiopian forests; and an innovative partnership in Kalimantan that seeks to unlock the commercial potential of a Non-timber forest product – the illipe nut – to provide livelihoods for communities while keeping forests standing.

At Partnerships for Forests we will rise to the challenge in 2018 by expanding our work into Latin America as well as continuing to look for further opportunities to catalyse investment in sustainable land use and forests in West & Central Africa, South East Asia and East Africa. We welcome new ideas for partnerships that can catalyse investment in forests and sustainable land use. If you have an idea for a Forest Partnership, enabling conditions project or a demand-side project we encourage you to submit via our Open Portal. The time is now to act to protect, manage and restore forests and land use for the benefit of both people and the planet.

Wishing a very joyous holiday season and successful new year to you and yours.