Helen Clark: Speech on ‘Reducing Tropical Deforestation Related to Key Agricultural Commodities’

Jan 23, 2015

I thank Jeff for the introduction, and thanks to the World Economic Forum for organizing this important session.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this diverse group of leaders, from such a wide range of sectors, on the critical importance of reducing tropical deforestation related to key agricultural commodities. This cross-sectoral dialogue and collaboration is crucial to build on the momentum of the last year and successfully address deforestation.

Since our Davos Forests session last year, I have been very pleased to witness the growing global partnership around addressing deforestation, both as a climate change issue and a development issue.

Importantly, forest countries have made substantial progress on developing and implementing forest strategies, with support from the international community; Parties to the Climate Convention reached significant agreements on how REDD+ will work; and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals has included new forest targets in its proposal for the new development agenda.

Dozens of major players in the palm oil industry have also committed to eliminating deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains. As a result, the percentage of the world’s palm oil trade covered by sustainability commitments has grown from fifteen per cent to over ninety per in the past fourteen months – an unprecedented and inspiring achievement. I know that our Forest session right here in Davos last year contributed significantly to this accomplishment.

This sense of momentum, partnership, and action, was also evident at the UN Climate Summit in New York last September, when a global coalition of countries, states, companies, indigenous peoples, and NGOs announced the New York Declaration on Forests. This Declaration set out an unprecedented public-private commitment to halve deforestation worldwide by 2020 and end it by 2030.

Since September, the number of endorsers of the Declaration has grown to 177, and I take this opportunity to thank those who helped drive this process, many of whom are here today: Prime Minister Solberg of Norway; David MacLennan, CEO, Cargill; Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever; Abdon Nababan of AMAN; Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso, President of Peru; Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia; and many others.

As the New Climate Economy Report shows, policies which reduce deforestation can stimulate economic growth and development, spurring agricultural productivity, eliminating rent-seeking behavior, and accelerating the clarification of land rights - thereby reducing social conflict and associated risks to investment.

Commodity production without deforestation can be a win for the climate, and for inclusive development and economic growth, and for smallholder famers and indigenous peoples. But - we will only see these wins achieved if we all act together. We have before us a collective action challenge which requires a global public-private partnership in response. Only if we all do our parts can we achieve these wins.

To build on 2014’s progress, and ensure that 2015 is an equally promising year for the world’s forests, the private sector needs to continue to build on and expand the substantial commitments made over the past year.

At the same time, it is critical that governments and the international community also step up and commit to doing their part. In particular, the international community needs to commit to providing adequate, sustainable, and predictable payments for REDD+ results at a large scale.

With momentum building, the agenda for 2015 must address several key challenges. I urge all of us over the course of this afternoon to consider the following questions:

• What must we do to trigger further commitments to deforestation-free sourcing of other agricultural commodities (beyond palm oil) during 2015? What would it take to have the soy, paper & pulp, and beef sectors in a similar position to palm oil by next year’s Climate Change conference in Paris?

• What must we do to ensure that these commitments are implemented on the ground, and that they contribute to national agendas for economic growth and sustainable and equitable development?

• What must we do to ensure that the all-too-often economically marginalized rural populations benefit from these transformations – particularly smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples?

My thanks again to the World Economic Forum for organizing this session, and for your valuable assistance last year in the preparation for the Climate Summit, and to all of you for being here.

The UN system is committed to working with you to continue to advance the Forests agenda, and to carry forward this spirit of progress and collaboration to Paris and beyond.

UNDP Around the world