Deforestation and Net Zero

Anna Triponel

July 22, 2022
Our key takeaway: Companies in the forestry, land-use and agricultural (FLAG) sectors contribute significantly to deforestation, increasing the planet’s vulnerability to climate change and threatening the livelihoods of over one billion people. And there is less time left than many people think: reaching net-zero by 2050 requires us to end the majority of commodity-driven land clearance and deforestation by 2025. However, the FLAG companies also hold the keys to solving the problem through their commitments to ambitious net zero and deforestation targets, while ensuring that mitigation efforts don’t come at the expense of human rights, decent work and a just transition. 

The UN Climate Change High-Level Climate Champions, Global Canopy, The Accountability Framework initiative, WWF and the Science Based Targets initiative published Why Net Zero Needs Zero Deforestation Now (June 2022):

  • Links between climate change and tropical deforestation: The report underscores that “there is no solution to climate change without a solution to tropical deforestation,” yet deforestation continues to increase even despite global efforts to prevent it. For example, deforestation increased by 12% between 2019 and 2021. Forests play a crucial role in combatting climate change: protecting and restoring forests could help reach 18% of the emissions cuts needed by 2030. And, say the report authors, “time is shorter than most people think: to reach net zero the majority of commodity-driven land clearance and deforestation must be halted by 2025” in order to reach net-zero by 2050. But the urgency of this work cannot come at the expense of human rights, especially of indigenous peoples and communities who sit at the “heart of the solutions.” 
  • Contribution of forest, land and agriculture companies to deforestation: According to the report, “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.” Twenty-two percent of global emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land use, with 11% from deforestation and land conversion. When deforestation happens, carbon sinks are lost; about one-third of all CO2 released every year is absorbed by forests. Companies in land-use sectors—forestry, land and agriculture (FLAG)—both bear a responsibility to and hold the power to address climate change caused by deforestation. The report cites research showing that around 60% of all deforestation globally is caused by the production of agricultural commodities in the value chains of FLAG companies. However, the tide is turning for company action, with a recent analysis demonstrating that “over 40% (148 companies) of the Forest 500 are committed to net zero, a near 5 times increase (480%) from 2 years ago.” (You can read more about the Forest 500 in our previous update here). 
  • Actions for business: The Race to Zero coalition is convened by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Marrakech Partnership and the High-Level Climate Change Champions, Gonzalo Muñoz, Nigel Topping and Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin. Race to Zero and its partners urge companies in the FLAG sector to commit to halting commodity-driven deforestation by joining the partnership. Members pledge to “halt deforestation and protect biodiversity, making their activities consistent with climate resilient development” and to “make their finance and investments consistent with climate resilient development, including ending deforestation and conversion of other natural ecosystems, and respecting biodiversity.” In parallel, the Science Based Targets Initiative is launching a new FLAG Framework to enable businesses in forest, land and agriculture sectors to set science-based targets that fully incorporate land-related emissions and removals. 

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