Making ‘zero-deforestation’ commodity production and trade a reality
The major threat to tropical forests today comes not from loggers but from large-scale forest clearance to meet rising demand for agricultural commodities. Recognising this, governments and businesses around the world are increasingly pledging to eradicate deforestation from supply chains of such commodities.
But many commodity-producing countries are characterised by poor forest and land-use governance, and forest clearance for agriculture is often illegal. A failure to address forest and land-use governance challenges could therefore make public and private sector zero-deforestation initiatives futile.
A model for addressing these challenges already exists. Since 2003, the EU has been implementing its Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan to address illegal logging. Under the Action Plan, the EU and timber-exporting countries negotiate and implement trade deals called Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) to improve forest governance and promote trade in verified legal timber products.
In a new paper from the EU FLEGT and REDD facilities, the authors argue that lessons from VPA experiences can assist efforts to define the enabling environment stakeholders need to put in place to make zero-deforestation production and related trade a reality.
Indeed, experience shows that by linking reforms to trade and market access VPAs provide strong incentives for commodity producers to comply with demand-side requirements.
VPAs are unlike typical trade deals in that their content is agreed through a highly participatory process that involves representatives of government, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholder groups. Experience shows that the quality of participation in areas such as defining legality and testing verification mechanisms is a key contributor to successful VPA negotiation and implementation.
Dialogue and cooperation among public and private stakeholders in commodity-producing countries is therefore likely to be critical to foster mutual understanding, broad consensus and effective implementation of zero-deforestation commitments.
- Briefing: Achieving zero-deforestation commitments