Cattle industry ban on Amazon destruction shows the way for protection of Indonesia’s forests

Feature story - October 6, 2009
Some good news from the Amazon should be good news for Indonesia too. Yesterday four of the biggest players in the global cattle industry joined forces to reduce their carbon hoofprint and back our call for zero deforestation. JBS-Friboi, Bertin, Minerva and Marfrig are going to stop buying cattle from newly deforested areas of the rainforest.

Brazil's cattle sector, which occupies 80 percent of all deforested areas of the Amazon, is the country’s leading carbon polluter.

The move is a direct result of our expose, 'Slaughtering the Amazon', which we published less than 4 months ago. Since then, we've seen an overwhelming response from companies fighting to distance themselves from Amazon destruction. Major shoe companies, including Adidas, Nike and Timberland worked with us to develop a zero deforestation plan and committed to cancel contracts unless their products were guaranteed to be free from Amazon destruction.

The decisive and quick response from companies to take action to stop Amazon destruction is a great example for industry in Indonesia to follow.

This incredible victory seemed a far-off possibility before the launch of our report however the four global cattle giants have now come onboard.  This sets a precedent for action to be taken to stop deforestation in other large forested developing countries like Indonesia and shows that immediate action can and should be taken by industry to not drive further forest loss.

Together Indonesia and Brazil are respectively the third and fourth largest carbon emitters internationally - largely from deforestation, and together are responsible for around a half of the world's emissions from deforestation. Globally, deforestation accounts for around 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world's trains, planes and cars put together. A good climate deal will only be effective if it successfully tackles emissions from both fossil fuels and deforestation.

Government and industry in Brazil have now realised that standing forests are infinitely more valuable than exploiting the finite resources of the Amazon. This ground shift in thinking also needs to take place in Indonesia, especially as 'business as usual' will only see Indonesia's emissions increase and their forests decrease in size.

The announcement in Brazil was made at an event in Sao Paulo, where each of the companies adopted new environmental and social standards to clean up their act and to ensure their products did not come from cattle raised in newly deforested areas of the rainforest. The plan will also help bring an end to the land-grabbing and social injustice that is rife in the Amazon. The Brazilian Association of Supermarkets (ABRAS), which includes Walmart and Carrefour, was at the announcement and supports the call for zero deforestation.

Governor Blairo Maggi of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, which has the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the largest cattle herd in Brazil was also there. Maggi announced that the state would support efforts to protect the Amazon and would provide high-resolution satellite images for monitoring.

Making it work

Measures include the monitoring of supply chains and clear targets for the registration of farms that both directly and indirectly supply cattle as well as measures to end the purchase of cattle from indigenous and protected areas and from farms using slave labour.

The Brazilian cattle sector, which occupies 80 percent of all deforested areas of the Amazon, is the country's leading carbon polluter.

At the United Nations General Assembly in September, President Lula announced a target of 80 percent reduction in deforestation by 2020 for Brazil. 

Indonesia needs to urgently improve its forest governance and to immediately declare a moratorium on deforestation. A moratorium on deforestation would allow the time and space for a solution to be worked out in consultation with local communities, national and local government and industry.

For this to work, President Yudhoyono needs to rein in his industry-friendly Forestry Ministry to speed the enforcement of national laws which ban the practice of burning to clear land and of clearing forests on peat land more than 3 metres deep for plantations.

Like Brazil's President Lula, Indonesia's President Yudhoyono also recently made a commitment to reduce emissions from deforestation, at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, by 26% by 2020 and up to 41% with international assistance.

President Yudhoyono's commitment is welcome but time is running out to tackle climate change and emissions reductions in Indonesia need to be big and bold. 

Protecting forests and tackling climate change

There are just 62 days left till the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen. We need Brazilian President Lula to support the industry initiatives and demonstrate that Brazil is ready and committed to end Amazon destruction. 

We need President Yudhoyono to implement an immediate halt to deforestation to turn his international commitments quickly into reality.  Only then funds can start to flow from developed countries to protect forests, the people and biodiversity that depend on them and help stop climate change.

We need all world leaders to attend this year's UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen, and there agree to an effective deal to avert the impending climate crisis. To keep global temperatures at safe levels, the deal must include the funds needed to end deforestation.

We are calling for developed world governments to provide US $140 billion a year to tackle the climate crisis, so that developing countries can prevent and adapt to climate change. Approximately US $40 billion a year of this should be designated to forest protection. The funds would be provided in return for a commitment to stop deforestation globally by 2015 in Brazil and Indonesia and by 2020 globally.

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