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Here’s the Beef with Corporate Supply Chain Deforestation

cowThe Paris climate agreement came into force on Friday, proceeded by a UN report that said greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will exceed by upwards of 14 billion metric tons what is needed to keep global warming to the internationally agreed upon target.

We know corporations can curb emissions by taking steps to reduce deforestation in their supply chains — and, in fact, hundreds of companies have made commitments to protect forests by sustainability sourcing agricultural commodities. But progress is mixed on implementing these pledges, according to a coalition of think tanks and research organizations.

Companies worldwide have started to make good on promises to eliminate forest destruction from their supply chains, according to two reports released Thursday. But progress is too gradual, they warn.

The reports are part of a multi-year effort to track progress on the 10 goals laid out in the New York Declaration on Forests, a 2014 pledge by 190 governments, multi-national companies, indigenous groups and NGOs to halve natural forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030.

One report analyzes 600 companies engaged in the production of the “big four” commodities responsible for 40 percent of deforestation: palm oil, wood, cattle and soy. If finds that 415 companies have made more than 700 supply chain commitments — but these address mostly palm oil (59 percent) and timber (53 percent). Twenty-one percent focus on soy. And for cattle, the primary driver of deforestation, only 12 percent of companies have made commitments.

“What we now need, if forests and the climate are to be saved, is action on commodities with the biggest forest impacts, and an increase in partnerships between companies and governments, and among retailers, traders and producers that pool resources to save forests,” said Charlotte Streck, co-founder and director of Climate Focus, which led the development of the report.

A second report released at the same time provides an update on all 10 goals of the New York Declaration on Forests.

In addition to Climate Focus, other organizations involved in producing the reports include CDP, Environmental Defense Fund, Forest Trends, Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Global Canopy Programme, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Rainforest Alliance, Stockholm Environment Institute, The Sustainability Consortium, Woods Hole Research Center, World Resources Institute and Global Forest Watch.

The first report highlights best practices that corporations can employ to keep forests in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Central Africa standing. These include using satellites to monitor forest loss to training cocoa farmers to grow sustainable crops.

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