Monday , July 22 2024

How we can stop deforestation faster

This article was first published here.

Deforestation is a global political issue which has garnered the attention of world leaders in recent years. In November 2021, policymakers and business leaders from around the world met at COP26, the UN’s climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. One of the top headlines to emerge from the conference was around deforestation.

Attendees agreed an ambitious set of targets to tackle the issue head-on. They unveiled a plan and accompanying timeline which they said would allow them to end deforestation completely by 2030. The list of commitments was signed by the leaders of a long list of countries which cover around 85% of the world’s forests.

Unfortunately, it did not take long after the buzz of the COP26 conference faded for their plan to unravel. Just three months after the conference ended, the plan was already significantly behind schedule, which suggests that the world leaders who signed up to it simply failed to enact any of their commitments once they returned home from Glasgow. The following year, at COP27, world leaders agreed to a very similar set of deforestation commitments, but failed to outline how they would do anything differently to rectify the failure from the previous year.

Therefore, things are not looking good when it comes to political leadership on this issue. But we do not need to give up all hope of tackling deforestation just yet. Despite the failure of climate conferences, there has been some local success, which should give us optimism for the future of the natural world and the ability of industries to remove deforestation from their supply chains and invest in environmental sustainability in a scalable way.

Global Forest Watch is a project aiming to help deal with this issue, run by the non-profit World Resources Institute. One of the things it does is produce reports on the scale of the problem of deforestation. It found, for example, that an area of tropical forest the size of Switzerland is lost each year to deforestation, with eleven football pitches’ worth of land lost per minute.

Global Forest Watch picked up on a fascinating trend in southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Deforestation levels in those two countries have fallen dramatically in recent years, in part due to firm but moderated government interventions, such as a plantation area cap and new forestry laws.

These countries are prominent exporters of palm oil, an ingredient used in food and cosmetic products. Thanks to the establishment of bodies like the Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) Board, palm oil production is now more sustainable than ever, with palm oil exported elsewhere in the world enjoying certified environmental credentials. As a result, primary forest loss in Malaysia fell by almost 70% between 2014 and 2020 and, according to the research, is consistently decreasing year-on-year.

It is remarkable that this was achieved without any product bans from the government. The state worked in tandem with industry to create a positive commercial environment in which palm oil producers could continue doing business, but in a more sustainable way. There are lessons for western governments here, both about the way to tackle deforestation and the ineffectiveness of short-sighted policies like product bans to deal with complex environmental issues.

There has been a lot of concern about palm oil causing deforestation, but it turned out to be unfounded. The European Union, for example, has villainised palm oil and even seems set to crack down on it with a new law called the Due Diligence Proposal. Unfortunately, because of the slow pace of lawmaking, the basis for that law was researched and written long before new insights came out, such as the paper from Global Forest Watch. The European legislative approach is based on outdated assumptions about palm oil and could end up doing more harm than good.

This trend of palm oil producers reducing deforestation at such a pace is a good sign for other industries around the world. It shows that progress is possible on deforestation and that nature does not have to lose out in order for us to continue enjoying cheap and plentiful food.

About Daily Globe

Check Also

The War on the Moon

There was a time when the HG Wells story ‘War of the Worlds’, made into …