Two tropical forest conservation efforts have gained momentum in recent years: zero deforestation commitments from the private sector and the policy framework Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Both efforts are necessary, but not sufficient in themselves to eliminate global deforestation.
In a recently published paper in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, we find that linking REDD+ and zero deforestation commitments offers a more efficient and effective solution to stop deforestation, which we call Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZ).
The current state of private initiatives and REDD+
Deforestation, which is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gases, is primarily caused by conversion for the production of four commodities in Brazil and Indonesia: beef, soy, palm, and timber products. To address this urgent problem, companies that control more than 90% of soy purchases in the Amazon, around half of cattle slaughter in the Brazilian Amazon, and 96% of palm oil trade globally have committed to stop deforestation.
While these company commitments are promising, many producers that clear forests can still sell commodities to companies that don’t have deforestation commitments, or they can even sell indirectly to the companies that have committed to zero deforestation. In other words, under the current policies even if companies clean up their own supply chains, they could be just creating islands of green in a sea of deforestation.
Policies for REDD+ have made great strides in recent years. The United Nations completed the technical guidance in 2014 under The Warsaw Framework for REDD+. Tropical countries have begun implementing REDD+ on the ground, while donor countries have committed $7.2 billion to the effort.
However, REDD+ implementation has been slow in many countries for two reasons. First, there’s a lack of political will and uncertainty about sustainable flows of REDD+ funding in the future. Second, few private-sector actors responsible for deforestation actively engage in the creation of REDD+ strategies and programs.
The Solution: Zero Deforestation Zones
Zero Deforestation Zones would address these challenges by bringing together private sector deforestation commitments and REDD+ programs to create a jurisdiction-wide solution.
Zero Deforestation Zones would be municipalities, states or entire countries where governments, companies and communities come together to eliminate deforestation throughout their jurisdiction. The definition of a ZDZ would be based on the context of the jurisdiction and a common framework outlined in the paper. Governments would develop and implement REDD+ programs. Companies would preferentially source commodities from ZDZs and focus new investment and expansion in the ZDZs.
The synergies that Zero Deforestation Zones can create between the private sector zero deforestation commitments and REDD+ include:
- Lower risks of non-compliance with public and private zero deforestation policies: If companies and governments harmonize their definitions and policies around zero deforestation, they can increase pressure on direct and indirect suppliers to comply with these policies.
- Shared monitoring, reporting, and verification systems: Governments could implement deforestation monitoring systems at economies of scale with REDD+ financing, generating useful data for the private sector.
- Increased investment in agricultural programs: REDD+ funding could support programs by producer associations and certifications to increase agricultural production on existing farms. In addition, companies would invest in ZDZs by sourcing commodities and building new infrastructure.
- Multi-stakeholder platforms: REDD+ stakeholder platforms would bring actors together to discuss shared concerns about forest and land sectors’ governance. These platforms could also help resolve land disputes between private sector actors and local communities and indigenous peoples.
Zero Deforestation Zones offer a framework to maximize the potential of both companies’ zero deforestation commitments and REDD+ programs. Multinational companies, their suppliers and governments in the areas they source from should discuss how they can collaborate to create a Zero Deforestation Zone.
Read more in our paper, Zero Deforestation Zones: The Case for Linking Deforestation-Free Supply Chain Initiatives and Jurisdictional REDD+, published in the special issue on Forests as Capital in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry.