Forests are significant contributors to climate change. They store carbon, but release it when burned.
Photo: © PEFC

“New York Declaration on Forests” to end forest loss by 2030

At the Climate Summit 2014 in New York more than 150 governments, companies, civil society and indigenous peoples endorsed the New York Declaration on Forests, pledging to halve the loss of forests by 2020 and, for the first time, to end it a decade later in 2030.

The Declaration also calls for the restoration of more than 350 million hectares of forests and croplands, an area greater than the size of India, which would bring significant climate benefits and take pressure off primary forests. Combined, this could avoid between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year by 2030.This is equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by the one billion cars that are currently on the world’s roads, notes the United Nations (UN) in a press release on the 23rd September on the occasion of the Climate Summit at the UN headquarters in New York.

Deforestation is a frequently overlooked source of carbon dioxide emissions and a significant contributor to climate change as trees, which store carbon, release it during slash-and-burn land clearing of forests. 

According to the UN, this Declaration was endorsed by countries in the developed and developing world, multinationals from the food, paper, finance and other industries, civil society organisations and indigenous peoples from Peru to Nepal. The non-legally binding political declaration seeks to change the politics in the run-up to next year’s Paris climate talks and accelerate action by companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. 

“The New York Declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually. Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution – they hold multiple benefits for all members of society,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. 

To support the New York Declaration, several specific commitments to action were announced at the Summit:

  • More than 20 global food companies committed to deforestation-free sourcing policies of palm oil. Three of these, the world’s largest palm oil companies, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill, also pledged to work together on implementation, and joined the Indonesian Business Council in asking the Indonesian government to support their efforts through legislation and policies.
  • As a contribution to the Summit, the Consumer Goods Forum, a coalition of 400 companies with combined revenue of more than three trillion US dollars, also called on governments to pass a legally binding climate deal in Paris in 2015 that would incorporate REDD+, including large-scale payments to countries that reduce deforestation. The global food companies are a part of the Forum. 
  • Major donors announced critical funding in the millions of dollars for projects aimed at halting deforestation and protecting forests. Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom are expected to announce that they will push for large-scale economic incentives as part of the Paris climate talks in 2015. 
  • A global coalition of indigenous peoples spanning Asia, Africa, Central America and the Amazon Basin pledged to protect the more than 400 million hectares of tropical forests under their management. This represents the storage of over 85 gigatons of carbon dioxide. 
  • Peru and Liberia presented new forest policies. Twenty-six governors from provinces covering a quarter of tropical forests, such as the Governors' Climate and Forest Task Force, pledged to act on climate change and cut deforestation by 80 per cent if developed countries created new economic incentives and provided support through results-based payments, with a substantial share of revenues going to indigenous groups and local communities. 
  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Uganda and several other countries are set to make national pledges to restore over 30 million hectares of degraded lands, more than doubling the 20 million hectares already pledged to date under the Bonn Challenge. 

According to the UN press release, the Declaration’s endorsement, and related supporting commitments, come as the forest sector is transformed by new policies and shifting demand from consumer goods companies and consumers, stronger land rights for indigenous peoples and greater advocacy by civil society. Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is down 75 per cent compared to 2004. In the past nine months alone, 60 per cent of the world’s highly carbon-intensive palm oil trade has come under commitments to go deforestation-free. 

These announcements form part of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call for action to keep global temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius by reducing emissions, moving money, pricing pollution, strengthening resilience and mobilising new coalitions. Forests are one of eight areas identified as critical in the fight against climate change. 


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