The world can’t reach net zero by 2050 without ending deforestation this decade

New analysis shows over 90% of major forest, land and agriculture companies that have committed to net zero could be at risk of missing their climate commitments due to a lack of action on deforestation. By Nigel Topping, UN High-Level Climate Champion for COP26 | June 28, 2022

Our forests and oceans are life’s support system. They are the lungs of our planet, helping to regulate our climate, while directly supporting the livelihoods of over a billion people. The social and economic benefits of these services are estimated to be in the trillions.

Today, it’s clearer than ever that there is no solution to climate change without a solution to tropical deforestation. Yet, despite recent efforts, deforestation increased by 12% between 2019 and 2021.

By protecting and restoring forests around the world, we can achieve 18% of the emissions cuts needed by 2030 to prevent catastrophic climate change. In doing so, we must ensure we protect and restore vital ecosystems while putting indigenous peoples and local communities at the heart of the solutions.

The forest, land and agriculture industries are critical to this. These sectors contribute 22 percent to global emissions, half of which come from deforestation driven by commodities providing food, fibre, feed and fuel. That’s 12 times more than we generate from aviation, which means these companies have as big a role to play as those critical sectors such as energy, steel, and cement.

Put simply, zero deforestation is not an option but a strategic necessity for companies with land-based value chains to deliver on their net-zero plans. It’s also vital for building resilience against the challenges we face including food security and the supply of other key commodities that billions rely on. That’s why the Race to Zero in collaboration with key partners commissioned new research to support and drive accelerated implementation.

It comes as the world begins to “call in” evidence of tangible progress against commitments, made in the run up to COP26 last year and ahead of COP27.

The only currency that matters now is the quality and pace of delivery. We can and must ensure that yesterday’s ambitious announcements will be fulfilled.

Time is shorter than most people think.

Expert partners like the Accountability Framework initiative have highlighted that to reach net zero the majority of commodity-driven land clearance and deforestation must be halted by 2025.

The good news is there are a small but growing number of companies that are leading the way and showing it’s not only possible, but beneficial to the bottom line to deliver on deforestation commitments as a core component of reaching net-zero.

What’s more the forthcoming methodology from the Science Based Targets initiative, specifically for companies with a footprint in the forest, land and agriculture sector, can help guide target setting and strategy. And the recently updated Race to Zero ‘starting line’ Criteria (3.0) calls for members to pledge to halt deforestation and protect biodiversity, making their activities consistent with climate resilient development.

But we need much more – all companies in the sector need to be committed to net-zero and tackling supply chain deforestation as a burning priority.

Now is the time to act to protect and restore our life-support systems, working alongside indigenous peoples and local communities, to achieve our net-zero and nature-positive future.

Learn more about our work to eliminate agricultural commodity-driven deforestation

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