Article Finds Commodity-driven Deforestation Remains Key Driver of Forest Loss
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An article in Science by a group of authors from WRI, the Sustainability Consortium and the University of Maryland finds that 27 percent of deforestation results from permanent land use change for commodity production.

The authors suggest that their results indicate that policies designed to achieve zero deforestation commitments “are not being adopted or implemented at the pace needed to meet 2020 goals” nor do they combat deforestation, as called for under SDG 15 (life on land).

14 September 2018: A group of authors from World Resources Institute (WRI), the Sustainability Consortium and the University of Maryland have published an article on the drivers of global deforestation loss. The study finds that commodity-driven deforestation has continued, despite corporate commitments to achieve zero deforestation in their supply chains by 2020.

The Science article titled, ‘Clarifying Drivers of Global Forest Loss,’ reports on the development of a forest loss classification model that attributes forest disturbance to drivers of land cover and land use change between 2001-2015. This model is unique because it distinguishes between permanent forest conversion associated with a change in land use, such as deforestation, and other forms of forest disturbance, such as wildfires. The authors explain that this distinction is important because it helps to prevent a common misperception that tree cover loss represents deforestation.

Twenty-seven percent of deforestation results from permanent land use change for commodity production.

The study finds that 27% of deforestation results from permanent land use change for commodity production. In the remaining areas, forest loss was attributed to forestry (26%), shifting agriculture (24%) and wildfires (23%). Urbanization contributed to only 0.6% of forest loss globally, with more than two-thirds of this loss in the eastern US. In boreal and temperate forests, forestry and wildfire were the dominant disturbance factors while commodity-driven deforestation and shifting agriculture were the dominant factors in tropical regions.

Despite corporate commitments to sustainable production and global sourcing of commodities like palm oil, beef and soy, the authors argue that “the rate of commodity-driven deforestation has not declined.” They further stress that their results indicate that policies designed to achieve zero deforestation commitments “are not being adopted or implemented at the pace needed to meet 2020 goals” nor do they combat deforestation, as called for under SDG 15 (life on land). The authors recommend that, inter alia: companies and governments use a wood fiber sourcing map to identify priority areas for certification and supply chain traceability; and companies work to eliminate five million hectares of conversion from supply chains annually. [Publication: Clarifying Drivers of Global Forest Loss] [WRI Blog on Study] [Land Portal Press Release on Article]

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