Today, fourteen of the world’s largest agricultural commodity and trading companies released a plan to address deforestation associated with palm, beef and soy production in biomes around the world. This plan is in response to a joint Corporate Statement of Purpose
made at COP26, in which they agreed to lay out a plan by COP27 to set agricultural production and trade on a 1.5C pathway to help meet global climate goals. While the plan released today represents progress for some commodities, it represents a step back for others and ultimately falls short of the 1.5C pathway that was promised.
In response, World Wildlife Fund-US released the following statement from Carter Roberts, President and CEO:
"A year ago, the world’s largest agricultural commodity traders stood up in Glasgow and committed to do their part to deliver on the stable climate and intact nature we all need. Today those companies issued a roadmap that demonstrates progress on palm oil and steps forward on beef but falls well short of what is needed on soy and falls short on expectations that the roadmap delivers what’s needed for a 1.5-degree future.
"We commend the palm oil sector for strong commitments that cover supply from all origins. This builds on leadership from governments, supply chain actors and civil society, as well as strong progress in key landscapes, particularly Indonesia in recent years. The cattle sector commitments also demonstrate progress, with a clear commitment to end all deforestation in the Amazon by 2025, legal and illegal, for direct and indirect suppliers. However, the language regarding cattle commitments in the Cerrado is contradictory and may not cover the critical issue of habitat conversion beyond deforestation. Importantly, the cattle sector made no commitments to address issues of deforestation and land conversion in other biomes. While this is a good start, more must be done.
"For soy, the roadmap includes deforestation but not habitat conversion. In so doing, it cherry picks which lands it will cover, leaving out significant parts of the most important landscapes, including 74% of the Cerrado in Brazil where 250 million tons of greenhouse gases are emitted on a yearly basis. Finally, the absence of a meaningful cutoff date will surely spark a race-to-the-bottom since producers will be paid to accelerate habitat destruction in advance of a commitment date 3 years away.
"These companies hold the key to agricultural production practices and Scope III emissions for food manufacturers and retailers around the world. They’ve made progress in some parts of their business but we know they can do more in others, and if agricultural commodity traders don’t do more, particularly with soy in places like the Cerrado, then neither can thousands of companies around the world that buy from them.
"There’s a clear path for agricultural companies to shift food production to degraded land. It begins with making commitments that match the expectations made a year ago in Glasgow. The financial world, governments, and WWF stand ready to help."
Mauricio Voivodic, Executive Director of WWF-Brazil, added:
"This roadmap presents some advances as companies are finally recognizing that they need to eliminate the destruction of ecosystems from supply chains. However, it’s still frustrating that ecosystems like Cerrado are not yet fully and consistently considered in the presented commitments of the soy and cattle sectors.
"The absence of a clear cut-off date and of targets to eliminate conversion from the soy supply chain locks the sector in a trajectory of high carbon emissions and continuing loss of biodiversity. Science demonstrates that deforestation and conversion must be urgently eliminated from the commodities supply chains to decrease global GHG emissions sufficiently and reach the 1.5- target."
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Additional Information about the Need to Address Deforestation and Conversion in Global Agriculture Supply Chains
- At COP26, major global agriculture companies signed a joint Corporate Statement of Purpose
that said they "have a shared commitment to halting forest loss associated with agricultural commodity production and trade" and agreed to "lay out a shared roadmap for enhanced supply chain action consistent with a 1.5 degrees Celsius pathway" by COP27. Unfortunately, the roadmap they delivered falls short of their commitment.
- The food and agriculture sectors contribute roughly 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, much of which is associated with deforestation and land conversion. A sector-wide commitment to halt deforestation and land conversion associated with raw commodity production and trade would have gone a long way towards reducing this contribution so global climate goals can be met.
- Of note, two soy sector companies, Amaggi and Louis Dreyfus Company, have made individual commitments to end deforestation and conversion by 2025. Their commitments go above and beyond the roadmap and should be applauded.
- Read more about Amaggi’s commitment to end deforestation and conversion by 2025, and their reporting process, here.
- Read more about Louis Dreyfus Company’s commitment to eliminate deforestation and conversion of native vegetation of high conservation value for agricultural purposes from all its supply chains, by the end of 2025, and its implementation plans, here.
- However, because of the scale and interconnected nature of the agri-commodities industry, a sector-wide commitment is necessary to end deforestation and conversion in line with a 1.5 pathway.
- As written, this roadmap so narrowly defines what types of places will be protected that 74 percent of Brazil’s Cerrado—the world’s most biodiverse savanna that stores almost 14 billion metric tons of carbon—is excluded and therefore vulnerable to irreversible destruction.
- Land conversion—which refers to the transformation of carbon-storing grasslands and savannas for agricultural production—must be addressed in tandem with deforestation in order to have a significant impact on climate change.
- A commitment that doesn’t clearly encompass forests, savannas and grasslands will only shift agricultural expansion further into places like the Cerrado, which are immeasurably important for biodiversity and climate mitigation. The Cerrado is already the source of 50 percent of Brazil’s soy output, and further destruction of it takes us further away, not closer to, the 1.5C pathway that the traders committed to.
- An estimated that 3,293 square miles—almost three times the size of Rhode Island—of the Cerrado were destroyed for commodity agriculture last year. Omission of the Cerrado and grasslands like it will only further incentivize further destruction in the coming years.
- In addition to 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.
- This simply is not a plan that supports global climate goal. Anything less than an all-encompassing, sector-wide strategy with clear cutoff dates runs the risk of doing more harm than good.
What’s Next: This roadmap is a step forward in some respects, but it still falls far short of putting the agri-commodities sector, and therefore our planet, on a 1.5C pathway. It is critical that the full sector takes meaningful, joint action to address both deforestation and conversion so global climate goals, and a livable future, can be achieved. We will continue to engage stakeholders, allies, and the agri-commodity community, as we have for years, to find ways to reach an agreement and credible implementation process to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.