United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

Governments, Business, Civil Society and Indigenous Leaders Pledge to End Loss of Forests

Declaration Would End Billions of Tons of Climate Pollution per Year, Backed With More Than $1 Billion Down Payment, Restore 350 Million Hectares of Forest

New York -- An innovative public-private partnership of multinationals, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples today pledged to cut the loss of forests in half by 2020 and end it a decade later in 2030 - a move that will eliminate the emission of between 4.5 and 8.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by the one billion cars that are currently on the world's roads.

At today's Climate Summit, the New York Declaration on Forests was endorsed by countries in the developed and developing world - including the United States, the EU, and a large number of tropical forest countries - as well as by multinationals from the food, paper, finance and other industries, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples from Peru to Nepal. For the first time, 155 of these global leaders agreed on a date to end deforestation, and the need for large-scale economic incentives for countries that reduce the loss of their forests. Deforestation is a frequently overlooked source of carbon dioxide emissions and a significant contributor to climate change, as trees, which store carbon, instead release it when they are burned during slash-and-burn land clearing of forests.

The Declaration, which was driven by a group of countries and companies with input from civil society and indigenous peoples, aims to change politics going into next year's Paris climate talks and accelerate action by companies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. The Declaration also calls for the restoration of over 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. It builds on announcements made at the Climate Summit and over the past months.

'I asked for countries and companies to bring bold pledges, and here they are,' said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. 'The New York Declaration aims to reduce more climate pollution each year than the United States emits annually, and it doesn't stop there. Forests are not only a critical part of the climate solution - the actions agreed today will reduce poverty, enhance food security, improve the rule of law, secure the rights of indigenous peoples and benefit communities around the world.'

'Today's declaration is a remarkable step forward towards reducing the CO2 emissions resulting from deforestation - the second leading contributor of carbon emissions worldwide. Cutting forest loss by half by 2020 and ending it by 2030 may appear a mammoth undertaking. But the commitments pledged by such a diverse and influential group of actors reflect the determination required to make this a reality. With the total yearly forest loss averaging 13 million hectares, addressing deforestation will also require the development of meaningful incentives to encourage countries to incorporate forest conservation and rehabilitation in their national development planning. Resource efficiency, natural capital investment, financial policies and the equitable distribution of benefits need all to be part of a holistic approach enabling countries - through schemes such as REDD+ - pursue a more sustainable pathway to development through the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests.' said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme.

'The New York Declaration sends an unmistakable signal going into Paris 2015,' said Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. 'Science tells us we won't limit global warming to two degrees without massive efforts on forests. Today, forward-thinking leaders in government, business and civil society together have begun the push to enact policies, change practices and put in place appropriate incentives to end deforestation.'

'This is a serious commitment for a serious challenge,' said Heru Prasetyo, head of Indonesia's REDD+ Agency. 'With the strong partnership of key actors from governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community I am confident we can achieve this ground-breaking vision.'

The Declaration's endorsement comes 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 since 2004, and 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.

'Our planet is losing forests at a rate of eight football fields every ten seconds,' said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 'Today we've seen important commitments from companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples to halt this trend. Now it is time for urgent collaboration to see these commitments realized on the ground.'

'The last few months have seen a welcome race to the top,' said Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer of Unilever, a consumer products company. 'Consumers have sent companies a clear signal that they do not want their purchasing habits to drive deforestation and companies are responding. Better still, companies are committing to working in partnership with suppliers, governments and NGOs to strengthen forest governance and economic incentives. It can be done and this Declaration signals a real intention to accelerate action.'

'Forests are not solely economic resources, but are the center of spiritual life and cultural integration for indigenous peoples,' said Abdon Nababan, Secretary General of the Indigenous Peoples Alliance of Indonesia's Archipelago (AMAN). 'The New York Declaration is a long-awaited show of political will by all countries to support indigenous peoples as we fight to defend our forests.'

To support the New York Declaration, several specific commitments to action were announced today, including:

  • Three of the world's largest palm oil companies - Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill, all of which recently announced deforestation-free sourcing policies and who jointly make up more than half of global palm oil trade - committed to work together on implementation, and joined the Indonesian Business Council in asking incoming Indonesian President Joko Widodo to support their efforts through legislation and policies.
  • Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom announced they would push for large-scale economic incentives as part of the Paris climate talks in 2015, and in the next couple of years pledged to enter into up to 20 new programs to pay countries for reduced deforestation rates, if credible programs were put forward. The three countries also pledge to consider funding additional, credible programs thereafter, if REDD+ countries deliver the results. 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 70 gigatons of carbon dioxide.
  • Peru and Liberia presented groundbreaking new forest policies, that see Peru getting up to US $300 million in funding from Norway and additional support from Germany, and Liberia receiving up to US $150 million from Norway, depending on results. Norway also announced support in the amount of US $100 million for indigenous peoples, as part of Norway's total pledge of $3 billion for climate and forest purposes in the years through 2020.
  • 26 governors from provinces covering a quarter of tropical forests pledged to do more than their fair share on climate change - to cut deforestation by 80 percent - if developed countries create new economic incentives.
  • DRC, 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.

>li>The Consumer Goods Forum, a coalition of 400 companies with combined sales over US $3 trillion, called on governments to pass a legally binding climate deal in Paris next year that includes large-scale payments to countries that reduce deforestation.

  • Several of Europe's largest countries committed to develop new public procurement policies to sustainably source forest-intensive commodities like palm oil, soy, beef and timber. This is expected to have a significant market impact by leveraging the buying power of some of the world's largest economies.

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 mobilizing new coalitions. Forests is one of eight areas identified as critical in the fight against climate change.

New York Declaration on Forests

Forests are essential to our future. More than 1.6 billion people depend on them for food, water, fuel, medicines, traditional cultures and livelihoods. Forests also support up to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity and play a vital role in safeguarding the climate by naturally sequestering carbon. Yet, each year an average of 13 million hectares of forest disappear, often with devastating impacts on communities and indigenous peoples. The conversion of forests for the production of commodities-such as soy, palm oil, beef and paper-accounts for roughly half of global deforestation. Infrastructure, urban expansion, energy, mining and fuel wood collection also contribute in varying degrees.

We share the vision of slowing, halting, and reversing global forest loss while simultaneously enhancing food security for all. Reducing emissions from deforestation and increasing forest restoration will be extremely important in limiting global warming to 2°C. Forests represent one of the largest, most cost-effective climate solutions available today. Action to conserve, sustainably manage and restore forests can contribute to economic growth, poverty alleviation, rule of law, food security, climate resilience and biodiversity conservation. It can help secure respect for the rights of forest dependent indigenous peoples, while promoting their participation and that of local communities in decision-making.

With our varying mandates, capabilities, and circumstances, collectively we commit to doing our part to achieve the following outcomes in partnership, including by ensuring that strong, large-scale economic incentives are in place commensurate with the size of the challenge:

  • At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strive to end natural forest loss by 2030.
  • Support and help meet the private-sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.
  • Significantly reduce deforestation derived from other economic sectors by 2020.
  • Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs (such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy) in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.
  • Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increase the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.
  • Include ambitious, quantitative forest conservation and restoration targets for 2030 in the post-2015 global development framework, as part of new international sustainable development goals.
  • Agree in 2015 to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement, in accordance with internationally agreed rules and consistent with the goal of not exceeding 2°C warming.
  • Provide support for the development and implementation of strategies to reduce forest emissions.
  • Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions-particularly through public policies to scale-up payments for verified emission reductions and private-sector sourcing of commodities.
  • Strengthen forest governance, transparency and the rule of law, while also empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those pertaining to their lands and resources.

Achieving these outcomes could reduce emissions by 4.5-¬‐8.8 billion tons per year by 2030. By working in partnership, we can achieve these goals and chart a new course toward conserving, restoring, and managing healthy forests for the benefit of all. We invite others to join us in committing to a world where people and forests grow together.

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