“If we succeed, there will be a significant change, a systemic change, a transformation of the economic paradigm, where we will change from being reliant on exploitative industries and instead focus on industries that create more green jobs or jobs that do not contribute huge emissions.”
Defrio Nandi, National Coordinator, Extinction Rebellion Indonesia
A small number of agricultural commodities are the major drivers of tropical deforestation. More than a decade of work highlighting the deforestation associated with beef, soy, palm oil, pulp and paper, cacao, coffee and rubber has contributed to a growing “deforestation-free” movement. Progress has been slower than hoped for. Nearly all the companies that committed to deforestation-free supply chains missed their 2020 target dates. Overall, progress has been mixed with perhaps the greatest being for the relatively small amount of soy produced in Brazil’s Amazon region, and for some producers of southeast Asian palm oil. But transparency and traceability have increased, norms appear to have shifted among consumers and consumer- facing brands, and scope for further progress is real and substantial if consumption and trade issues can be addressed adequately.
Pasture expansion for beef production is the largest driver of tropical forest loss. Animal agriculture is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from cows, while using enormous quantities of water and creating massive amounts of pollution. Eating too much meat, especially red meat, is also bad for human health. Recent declines in meat consumption in some higher-income countries are more than offset by increases in emerging economies. And in China, bird flu and African swine fever is contributing to growth in imports of beef, including from parts of Brazil where cattle ranching is driving major spikes in deforestation.
Alternatives to conventional animal protein consumption are growing exponentially in the marketplace, although they still constitute a small fraction of protein purchases. A new generation of plant-based proteins is proving competitive in terms of taste and attractiveness to consumers; its growth in volume is driving down unit production costs. Research and development in cell-culture production techniques is also accelerating and investments in both plant-based and cell-culture proteins is growing rapidly, including within traditional animal protein companies. Some analysts suggest these alternatives could dominate the marketplace in the mid-2030s.
HOW FUNDERS CAN SUPPORT
- Promote incentives and disincentives to eliminate deforestation from commodity supply chains through public procurement and trade legislation.
- Promote systems-wide change through effective regulation to eliminate deforestation from supply chains and advance market certainty.
- Support transparency, disclosure, and standards for private sector initiatives to advance deforestation-free commodities and align with 1.5° climate pathways and science-based targets for climate and nature.
- Contribute to testing jurisdictional sourcing areas.
- Identify and support entry points for a “deforestation-free” consumer agenda in domestic markets and with China and India, where “deforestation-free” imports could be considered in the context of broader trade agreements. Ensure that national organizations and experts are in leadership roles rather than “importing” western campaigning models.
- Highlight opportunities for leadership in healthy diets in key emerging economies, including China and Brazil, emphasizing a combination of health, environment, and food security benefits consistent with local priorities and leadership of local institutions.
Climate & Forests 2030 Papers
- Private Sector Engagement (Pollard)
- Reducing Global Deforestation Associated with Commodity Supply Chains in China (Li)
- India: Markets and Supply Chains for Climate, Forests, and Land Use (Chaturvedi)
- Growing Better: Ten Critical Transitions to Transform Food and Land Use (The Food and Land Use Coalition)