The world’s forests have today been given what we can only hope is a realistic reprieve. The New York Declaration on Forests marks a watershed in the global effort to contain, then halt deforestation around the world.
United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon has done the planet and some of its most critical ecosystems a great service in convening this groundbreaking meeting of governments, global businesses and NGOs, all of whom are committing to a range of targets designed to secure the future of the world’s forests. Deforestation is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore climate change.
I hope we will look back on this declaration in future years as a milestone in forest protection.
In some ways we are perhaps a model for how forestry issues can be tackled at scale. We recognised that although there is certainly a short-term cost to transitioning to a sustainable business model, the long-term cost of failing to act is far greater. Businesses need to realise that commitments such as the ones outlined in the New York Declaration will have a positive effect on profitability over the next 15 years. They are not mere trinkets to be added to an annual sustainability report — they are a survival guide that shows forest-dependent businesses how they can continue to exist and generate profit.
In signing this declaration, the goal is not simply to sit in the reflected glory of well-spoken words, but to be a part of the delivery of this ambition. Action on this scale will, however, require collaboration on an unprecedented level.
We know how effective partnership can be in tackling what some might see as intractable problems. In early 2013, APP committed, to a highly ambitious Forest Conservation Policy, the foundation of which was a complete and permanent end to all natural forest clearance in our supply chain in Indonesia and China. This puts us 17 years ahead of the 2030 target stated in the declaration. We could not have gotten there — and more importantly, held firm on our commitment — without widespread collaboration. This has been with government, with businesses up and down our supply chain, with our employees and, surprising to some, with many of those who were our fiercest critics.
The New York Declaration also commits to the restoration of 350 million hectares of natural forest by 2030. That is an area some 30 times the size of New York State. This is an extraordinary and unprecedented global commitment. Addressing forest protection and restoration is everyone’s responsibility. We, the world community, should not only use the resources provided for us, we also have a responsibility to protect, nurture and restore the parts that we have taken.
Forest restoration on this scale is without doubt ambitious, but if we focus on the sort of partnership represented at this meeting, then it is eminently achievable.
APP recently committed to support the protection and restoration of one million hectares of forest and forested peatland across 10 landscapes in Indonesia. Even at that scale, just one company cannot succeed on its own, so if 349 million more hectares are to be restored in the next 15 years, there will have to be global cooperation on a very broad scale indeed.
Our business is largely dependent on sustainable, productive forestry and we hope that others will join forces with us and each other. The targets set out in the declaration are a good start, but the goal must be to act now in order to achieve the stated goals well ahead of time. If we can do it, others can too.
This post first appeared on APP’s blog on September 23, 2014.