The Cerrado is in their hands
A future that hinges on the choices of just a few powerful ag traders
Fourteen large agricultural companies that underpin our connected global food system have a unique ability to change the trajectory of the Cerrado and, as a result, help meet our global climate targets.
Why? Because the global food system accounts for over 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, with much of these emissions caused by deforestation and conversion to accommodate global reliance on cheap commodities like soy.
The agricultural traders buy and sell vast quantities of soy and other raw commodities, which are ultimately sold to food companies, restaurant chains, and retailers, where they turn up in final products that are ubiquitous in our everyday lives. More than a third of the world’s soy—which is converted to feed for livestock and poultry, cooking oil, and even fuel for cars—is produced in the Cerrado and other parts of Brazil.
An opportunity for leadership
These 14 agricultural companies can stop the Cerrado from disappearing, help the global community reach its 1.5ºC climate goal, and limit catastrophic impacts to the climate, nature, and biodiversity.
At the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, this small but powerful group of agricultural traders all agreed to take sector-wide action to do just that. In their words, they committed to delivering a “shared roadmap for enhanced supply chain action consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway” by COP27.
Unfortunately, the roadmap unveiled at COP27 falls woefully short of their promise and leaves a 1.5 degrees Celsius future even further out of reach.
Traders need to
- end all deforestation and conversion, including of savanna and grasslands like the Cerrado that capture carbon in their deep roots7
- make commodities traceable and transparent
- monitor, verify, and report on progress
The roadmap agreed to by the traders so narrowly defines what types of places will be protected that 74 percent of the Cerrado is excluded and therefore vulnerable to irreversible destruction. In addition, land conversion must be addressed in tandem with deforestation in order to have a significant impact on the climate crisis.
Beyond using definitions inclusive of our most vulnerable landscapes, a successful roadmap must stop habitat destruction on a timeline fast enough to have the right impact. If the traders do not make it known they will not accept soy from newly cleared land, effective immediately, then they will only encourage more destruction as fast as possible until their signaled deadline.
The current roadmap also means that the customers of these agricultural companies—manufacturers and brands who are trying to meet their own climate supply chain targets—would be unable to do so, creating a domino effect that would harm efforts worldwide to secure a livable planet.
There are ways to create an effective roadmap with sustainable solutions, allowing for agricultural production that can grow enough to feed the world without sacrificing our climate. Soy production on already degraded land is one such option, allowing this crucial landscape to remain intact while still feeding the planet.
Strengthening global food security, limiting climate change, and halting nature loss are not opposing concepts. These challenges can and must be faced together. But we can only do that if leading companies that trade and sell food commodities make meaningful commitments and take responsibility for their role in solving climate change and nature loss—both of which threaten to upend the food systems upon which we all depend.