New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) Progress Assessment: Deforestation remains at record highs

New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) Progress Assessment: Deforestation remains at record highs

Photo by Agathe Marty on Unsplash

With the endorsement of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) in 2014, over 190 national and subnational governments, multinational companies, groups representing indigenous communities, and nongovernmental organizations pledged to work toward ending forest loss by 2030. 

Climate Focus annually leads an independent network of civil society groups and research institutions - the NYDF Assessment Partners– in undertaking a general and goal-specific progress assessment towards the 10 goals formulated by the NYDF. This article outlines the findings from the 2018 general progress assessment. The goal-specific progress assessment this year will focus on forest governance (Goal 10). It will be launched at the end of November.

Forests have the potential to provide at least 30 percent of the solution to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees, yet our forests are disappearing faster than ever (Goal 1). In 2017, tropical forests emitted 4.6 gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere – more than four times the average annual value between 1990 and 2010 – and the second highest loss on record after 2016. 

Unsustainable consumption, increased wealth, growing populations and changing diets put increasing pressure on natural ecosystems. Agricultural expansion (Goal 2) accounts for about 80 percent of global deforestation and almost a fifth of deforestation is caused by infrastructure development, mining, and oil and gas extraction. At the community level, basic needs activities (Goal 4) such as subsistence agriculture, fuel wood collection, and other activities may contribute to forest loss and degradation. 

While there are signals that the international community understands the mitigation value of forests, current efforts to stop forest loss are not enough. 

  • Though large shares of international and export markets in palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp are covered by corporate commitments to reduce forest loss, major players in each of these commodities have yet to adopt any forest-related commitments. In addition, companies producing these commodities for domestic consumption or for developing country markets often do not have any forest commitments due to a lack of consumer demand for sustainable products.
     
  • In non-agricultral economic sectors, close to 97 million hectares (19 percent) of intact forest landscapes in the Amazon, Central Africa, and the Asia Pacific overlap with commercial concessions for oil and gas and mining.
     
  • Government recognition of indigenous and local community forest rights has remained slow since 2008, despite their proven role in protecting forests and mitigating climate change (Goal 10).
     
  • Financial resources for forests (Goal 8) are insufficient to realize their full mitigation potential. Just 2 percent of international climate finance goes to forests. Subsidies and investments in sectors driving deforestation (e.g., agriculture) amount to 40 times more than investments in protecting forests. 

Across sectors, lack of data is a major limitation to understanding the location-specific drivers of deforestation and the effectiveness of measures taken to protect forests. Major constraints and uncertainties include small sample sizes, lack of appropriate proxy data, and lack of verification of self-reported data. While countries are adopting new policies and strengthening implementation capacities for bringing degraded forests and land into restoration, aligning international commitments and measuring implementation remain challenging.