How we unlock transformational change to save our Forests
Back in May, the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA) hosted its Annual Meeting in Bogotá, Colombia’s high-altitude capital, which brought together 300 leaders from the worlds of business, government and civil society. As well as having an acute awareness of the importance of forests in solving our global climate and biodiversity crises, they have a huge weight of collective influence.
The meeting was invigorating. It was upbeat. Yet it also zeroed-in on the considerable challenges we still face. And I think everyone left with a real sense of urgency and a determination to stop the ecocide.
If you were there, I need to thank you, once again, for contributing. If not, I want to give you a quick update on the tenor of the discussions, and three commitments we made.
Video: President of Colombia – Ivan Duque: Address at the Tropical Forest Alliance Annual Meeting
So, first, the meeting itself
It was great to be in Bogotá, to be co-hosted by the Colombian Government, and to hear directly from the President about his determination to address deforestation. The country has committed to a US$20 million fund to promote low-carbon investment, and to eliminate deforestation from meat and dairy production. And, beyond halting deforestation, there is a strong intention to reverse the process – by restoring hundreds of thousands of acres of degraded land and planting 180 million trees.
A central theme was the promise of jurisdictional or landscape-based approaches, which address the economic viability of rural economies. And we heard from stakeholders from several regions that are making real progress, like Indonesia’s Siak district, and Colombia’s Department of Caqueta.
These jurisdictional approaches are not new. But they have emerged as an effective way to complement the type of supply chain initiatives that have traditionally been the focus of the TFA community. We are therefore convinced that the most effective thing we can do going forward is catalyse collective action in the world’s key production landscapes.
Diagram: Graphic Recording from TFA Annual Meeting – A Call for Systemic Action
A clear pacesetter is the Mato Grosso region in Brazil and its Produce, Conserve, Include (PCI) platform and strategy. First launched in 2015, the PCI is helping the region’s vast but often impoverished agricultural economy to co-exist with the 60% of remaining forest cover. And a new innovation, supported by several NGOs, is the PCI “Pitch Book” – a menu of readymade, plug-and-play solutions for businesses to actively engage in the landscapes from which they are sourcing.
Of course, it wasn’t all good news. The latest Global Forest Watch figures were shared, and the overall picture is not good. Although the 2018 rate of deforestation fell back from the 2016 and 2017 peaks, 12 million hectares of tree cover were lost, and the underlying three-year trend is still heading upwards, with some deeply worrying incursions into protected forest areas and indigenous lands. However, a reason to be optimistic is the situation in Indonesia, where deforestation has all but stopped – demonstrating the success of its national and regional initiatives and providing inspiration to the wider forest community.
China’s attitude to commodity supply chains and deforestation was another strong theme, and we were delighted to announce that the TFA is launching a programme of activity to support the Chinese Government ahead of the UN Biodiversity Conference in Kunming in 2020. Against this backdrop, we believe there is a clear rationale and opportunity for the Chinese state to engage in the forest debate and wield its considerable influence.
Accelerating into 2020 and beyond
We closed the meeting with three commitments:
- The consensus from Bogotá was the need for system-level change. For example, there were clear calls for the creation of a Global Accord on Commodity Sourcing. Brokering such an agreement falls outside of the TFA’s traditional remit, but we will explore what such an accord may look like and how it could be pursued.
- There was strong endorsement for the TFA to continue to catalyse collective action on jurisdictional initiatives. By complementing (but not substituting) supply chain actions, this promises to be transformational.
- We all need to accelerate towards 2020, making what progress we can, whilst also framing a compelling post-2020 agenda. For example, we will consult across our membership to broker a consensus. We will also continue to highlight the effectiveness of jurisdictional leadership – aiming for the subject to be high on the agenda at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York this September. Finally, we confirmed that the next TFA meeting will take place in Indonesia – a country that has done more than any in the last few years to reduce deforestation, although significant challenges do remain.
A lot needs to happen in the intervening 12 months. Everyone in the forest community needs to be held to account, and we are only going to accelerate progress by working better together. So let’s be humble about what we have achieved, let’s be frank about the challenges, and let’s agree on a compelling vision for a #ForestPositive future.
The article was first published on Modern Diplomacy.