200 Days to Protect Forests and the Climate

by Diana Ruiz

June 20, 2019

Big companies have just 200 days to make good on 2020 commitments to put an end to deforestation. A Greenpeace International report, Countdown to Extinction shows that despite making this deadline — set almost 10 years ago — they are all failing.

© Rogue Collective

At the beginning of 2019 Greenpeace International asked the corporations where they buy their soy, palm oil, meat, dairy and other high risk industrially produced commodities. Only a handful were able to tell us who they buy from and no one was able to disclose all the way to the point of harvest, plantation or farm. Not a single company  – among the 50 that Greenpeace International contacted – could demonstrate meaningful efforts to end their links to forest destruction.

Last year we put sixteen leading consumer companies to the test, to disclose who they buy their palm oil from. We found that they all sourced from the same traders and producers known to be destroying rainforests.

On June 14, Cargill, announced that it will not meet its 2020 deadline and instead has introduced another failed plan.

Aerial image of the Cerrado region in Brazil. The Cerrado is the second largest biome in Brazil occupying 22% of the national territory. Despite being the most biodiverse savannah in the world, more than half of its area has recently been destroyed, due to the reckless advance of an agriculture model producing commodities, such as soy and corn, for export.

Aerial image of the Cerrado region in Brazil. The Cerrado is the second largest biome in Brazil occupying 22% of the national territory. Despite being the most biodiverse savannah in the world, more than half of its area has recently been destroyed, due to the reckless advance of an agriculture model producing commodities, such as soy and corn, for export.

Here is the problem – the world’s leading scientists say that protecting and restoring forests is essential to avoid ecological and climate breakdown. This past May, UN Scientists reported that 1 million species are at risk of extinction and forests are a critical habit for so many species. We also know the Earth’s temperature has continued to rise in the last decade.

The inescapable reality is that once you start to degrade an ecosystem, the life giving functions begin to unravel and no technology will be able to bring back the equilibrium once it is lost. We are now living in a climate and ecological crisis.

The predatory model of soybean production has rushed deforestation in the Cerrado, which is one of the most threatened biomes in Brazil and extremely important for the supply of aquifers throughout Latin America. The agribusiness expansion puts traditional communities and natural resources at risk.

Our food systems cause 80% of global deforestation and release emissions equal to Japan, Germany and the UK combined. Stopping forest destruction and restoring the world’s forests is one of the cheapest and fastest ways to restrain a climate breakdown.

Last week, hundreds of executives that made promises to end deforestation came together again at the Consumer Goods Forum for a week long conference from June 11th to the 14th, in Vancouver, Canada. Tackling deforestation was not even on their agenda.

Activists from Greenpeace Canada welcomed delegates to the ‘Forest Destroyer” global summit. Reminding them that their prolonged inaction is “failing forests and causing climate change”.

Moments later, inside the venue activists sent another message reinforcing what was not on the Forum’s agenda.

Action at the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Global Summit in Vancouver, Canada

One of the volunteer climbers, Melanie Dupis said “We’re living in a climate and ecological emergency and these companies have a choice: evolve their business or start winding down. Our children and the climate can’t wait for another decade of fine words and no action. It’s time to make big changes.”

Following CGF’s statement on June 11th in response to Greenpeace International’s release of Countdown to Extinction, the CGF’s Sustainability Director reacted to a column written by Greenpeace in Ethical Corporation – citing that “global consumer industry purchases only a small fraction of the commodities that are grown in tropical forests,..”. We question their misleading statement because Unilever is the largest buyer of palm oil followed by Nestle and Mondelez. Many of these same companies are big market players in cocoa and are members of the CGF including: Cargill, Nestle, Mondelez and Mars. Cocoa is a major driver of deforestation in Africa. The world wide production for cocoa during 2017 – 2018 was at 4.6 million metric tons – these four companies represent an estimated half of the world’s cocoa sourcing and processing.

It’s not the amount of a commodity that is purchased but the rainforest loss to produce it. So as long as these high risk commodities remain in the portfolios of multi billion dollar companies they have a responsibility to get it right and know where their raw materials are coming from.

As consumers we have choices and we have the power to demand change before it’s too late. Stand with us to tell companies: change ‘business as usual’ or go extinct.

Diana Ruiz

By Diana Ruiz

Diana is the Senior Palm Oil Campaigner for Greenpeace USA and is based in Washington DC, leading our work to make zero deforestation in Indonesia a reality. She has worked to make change and hold U.S. corporations accountable in countries including Indonesia, India, Peru, and Ecuador. Diana has focused on a range of issues that draw from industrial chemical systems to pesticide regulations, climate mitigation and adaptation measures.

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