New York Declaration to halve global forest loss ‘impossible’ to achieve by 2020

Thursday, September 19th, 2019

Another voluntary initiative to halt deforestation is set to fail as the New York Declaration on Forests says its 200 members need to ‘dramatically escalate action’ in deforestation fight.

The failure to tackle deforestation through voluntary pledges was revealed again last week as the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) said it will be “impossible” for its 200-plus partners to achieve their 2020 goals.

A 10-goal declaration agreed between governments, companies, indigenous people and civil society, the NYDF’s aim to halve natural forests loss by 2020 has fallen woefully short, a progress report said in September.

“We are well short of meeting the Declaration’s 2020 targets and will need to dramatically escalate funding and action to achieve the 2030 targets,” Dr Andrew Steer, president and CEO at World Resources Institute, wrote in the NYDF September report.

Signatories of the NYDF include corporates such as Unilever, Tesco, L’Oréal and Nestlé, along with 50 governments and the EU.

However, the commitments have largely proved hollow. The rate of global tree cover loss increased 43% between 2000 and 2018 as opposed to decreasing toward the NYDF goal.

The report added that since the NYDF was endorsed at the 2014 UN Climate Summit annual humid tropical primary forest loss stands at 4.3m hectares per year, a 44% increase on the yearly average seen between 2000 and 2013.

“If we want to limit climate change, we must avoid irreversible losses of biodiversity, bring degraded land back into productivity, and respect the rights, livelihoods and cultures of forest peoples,” the report noted.

The “high political will” expressed by NYDF members to implement ambitious reforestation plans has failed to result in meaningful action.

170m hectares of land – 20m hectares greater than the NYDF goal – was pledged by members to be reforested but to date, the restoration of forests stands at a meagre 26.7m hectares.

The sobering assessment by the NYDF reflects failures of several other voluntary-led schemes designed to stem global deforestation.

A 2010 commitment made by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and its members  – many of whom signed on to the NYDF – to end deforestation in global supply chains by 2020 has also missed the mark.

Recent Greenpeace analysis of the zero-deforestation pledge said that CGF endorsers had “wasted a decade on half-measures and in that time vast areas of the natural world have been destroyed.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA), a public-private partnership of similar ilk to the NYDF, announced this year that the TFA “will fall short” of its own 2020 anti-deforestation aims, and that the organisation was “naïve” to think voluntary action alone could eradicate global forest destruction.

Multinational companies and governments are facing increasing pressure from civil society and the public to address deforestation issues more robustly.

A European Commission Communication, published in July and aimed at eliminating global deforestation – theoretically to help deliver on its NYDF pledge, continued to focus on more ‘voluntary’ corporate actions of the type the NYDF report found to be ineffective.

While the EC Communication did posit the possibility of new binding EU-wide regulation to exclude deforestation-laced goods from the EU single market, it has yet to commit to this possibility.

In August numerous NGOs and some EU governments called for delays in the implementation of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement as a strategy to pressure Brazil to stop rampant deforestation and increased fires in the Amazon.