The production of commodity agriculture is responsible for 85 percent of total forest loss globally. Palm oil, beef, and soy make up the lion’s share of deforestation.
The global agriculture giant Cargill has a significant interest in all three of these commodities, plus several others with non-negligible impacts on forests such as cocoa. That’s why the company’s UN Climate Summit commitment to end deforestation across all commodities in its supply chain is a very big deal.
Cargill’s news might not have garnered the same press or excitement as other important commitments from public-facing brands and retailers have. But if we’re going to prevent further deforestation, it’s critical to secure the support and cooperation of the major commodity traders and producers who are closer to actions that directly affect forests.
Next step: turning commitments into action
Forests – and especially tropical forests – are vital to life on this planet and to the stability of the climate.
More than 70 percent of the world’s species live in forests, and the loss of forests is responsible for 12 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the impacts on livelihoods and cultural legacies of the millions of indigenous peoples who call the forests home.
This is no secret to the companies in global supply chains whose business is these products. Indeed, Cargill and other companies have been engaged on the issue of deforestation through participation in Brazil’s Soy Moratorium and focused efforts to end deforestation attributed to palm oil production.
But Cargill’s new commitment, made as part of the New York Declaration on Forests, represents a big new step. It’s both expansive, covering all commodities in all locations, and timely – as the Soy Moratorium, which has contributed to Brazil’s tremendous progress in slowing deforestation in the Amazon, is set to expire at the end of the year.
Commitments are only the first step. The remaining task is translating such commitments into concrete action.
Environmental Defense Fund believes that in order to end deforestation, we must create a durable, at-scale model that meets the demand for agricultural commodities while protecting forests. We envision a scenario where supply of agricultural commodities is produced in Zero Deforestation Zones – nations, states and territories that are able to demonstrate reductions in deforestation within their borders.
Cargill’s commitment may represent a tipping point in this vital segment of the supply chain. In the coming months and years, EDF, along with our partners in the environmental community, will be working hard to ensure that these commitments become reality and that our forests remain standing.