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The Chain: the New York Declaration on Forests

September 30, 2014

New York Declaration on Forests

At Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit in New York City, world leaders from governments, businesses, and NGOs joined together to announce the first global timeline to slow and halt forest lost. The New York Declaration on Forests commits to cutting forest loss in half by 2020, and ending it by 2030. It also calls for eliminating forest loss from agricultural commodity supply chains by 2020 and restoring at least 350 million hectares of degraded forest lands by 2030.

According to a new analysis by Climate Advisers, the Declaration has the potential to cut emissions of global warming pollution between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons per year by 2030. That is about the same as removing from the road all the cars in the world, or not burning a trillion pounds of coal, or turning off every smokestack and tailpipe in the United States.

The Declaration is supported by more than 150 partners, including 32 national governments, 20 subnational governments, 40 companies, 16 indigenous peoples groups, and 49 NGO and civil society groups across the world. The private sector contingent includes pledges from many of the world’s largest palm oil traders, including APP, Cargill, GAR, and Wilmar. Many consumer companies—including Kellogg’s, General Mills, Nestle, and Unilever—signed on to the Declaration in addition to their recent No-Deforestation commitments for palm oil sourcing. Additional pledges came from consumer giants such as McDonalds, Walmart and others, signaling the ongoing momentum away from deforestation-based commodities. In total, the Declaration is widely being viewed as one of the most significant outcome from the Climate Summit, and shows that protecting forests is perhaps the most cost-effective strategy for combating climate change.

Major Cargill Announcement

While many companies showed strong support for cutting deforestation at the Summit, Cargill stood out with its commitment to implement No-Deforestation principles across all commodities. On Tuesday, CEO David MacLennan stood beside Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to announce that Cargill would extend its recent “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” palm oil policy to other commodities around the world, such as soy, sugar, beef, and cocoa.

Cargill is one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, with $134.9 billion in annual sales and more than 143,000 employees in 67 countries. It is the largest privately held company in the United States. In soy alone, it handles 30 million metric tons a year, more than 10% of global supply, with similar or greater market share in sugar and several other commodities. Cargill’s supply chain covers millions of hectares of land in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and North America, meaning that their commitment has the potential to dramatically cut deforestation and protect communities around the world. The New York Times called the announcement, “one of the most sweeping environmental pledges ever made by a large agricultural company.”

Forest and consumer advocates celebrated Cargill’s commitment, but urged the company to set an ambitious timeline for implementation, and to continue its ongoing soy moratorium in Brazil. They urged Cargill to now formalize and implement a comprehensive policy over the next three months that sets an ambitious deadline for implementation.

The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce Pledge

In another major forest announcement at the Climate Summit, four major palm oil companies joined with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Kadin, in calling upon the Indonesian government to eliminate deforestation and peatland destruction nationwide. The four companies—Wilmar, GAR, Cargill, and Asian Agri—all reaffirmed their commitments to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains and called on the Indonesian government to be a partner in enshrining these reforms into national law.

The pledge signals a profound shift underway for agribusiness and conservation. Voluntary commitments from private sector leaders are now creating the momentum and impetus for governments to level the playing field. Strong implementation and enforcement of such laws will be key. The New York Times story quotes Forest Heroes calling the declaration “a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture; we should not underestimate the significance of what is happening.”

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