UK Government provides £62m to combat deforestation in Latin America

The UK Government has announced two new projects worth £62m will help tackle deforestation across Latin America by promoting sustainable new business models and sourcing practices.

The UK Government launched two new projects today (14 November) to reduce deforestation and improve the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities in Latin America. More than £40m will extend a programme looking to achieve zero deforestation in Colombia’s Amazon region to Brazil, while £19.3m has been aimed at businesses operating in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

The announcement has been welcomed by consumer goods firm Unilever, a company which has also announced a £305m partnership with Norway to promote new agricultural practices.

Minister of State for Climate Change and Industry Claire Perry said: “The Government’s support for these initiatives to tackle deforestation will help speed up the transition to a low carbon economy, fostering the creation of forest-friendly businesses while helping responsible companies to source sustainably and kick-starting projects that improve the lives of many people across the region.”

The UK has confirmed a £43m extension of the REDD for Early Movers (REM) programme, which provides performance-based payments for initiatives that promote forest conservation. The programme had been running in Colombia, but will now be expanded to cover the Brazilian states Acre and Mato Grosso. Payments will be made if the states can reduce emissions from deforestation compared to historical levels.

An additional £19.3m has been added to the P4F programme, which connects governments with private and public sectors to offer technical assistance and grants to support new business models that can transform supply chains at risk from deforestation.

The programme has been embedded in communities in Indonesia, West and Central Africa and East Africa since 2015, and will now be extended to forest communities in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Unilever and Norway

The announcement was made at COP23 in Bonn, where consumer goods firm and “Climate A Lister” Unilever’s chief executive Paul Polman was championing the role of forests in creating “resilient growth and climate justice”.

Unilever was one of the 23 global businesses that last month pledged to the Cerrado Manifesto – launched in September 2017 by Brazilian and international NGOs – which calls for private actors to work with local and international stakeholders to halt forest and native vegetation loss in the region. 

“Regions like the Amazon and the Cerrado play a critical role in climate protection and support astonishing biodiversity,” Polman said. “They are also vital to agricultural production. We must therefore find ways to increase production while halting forest loss.

“Companies cannot achieve this on our own, and so I welcome today’s announcement from Claire Perry that the UK will be increasing its support to this unique region to foster new partnerships among business, government and communities.”

Research has shown that the forest and land-use sector could deliver 37% of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to halt dangerous levels of global warming. Commodities such as beef, palm oil and soya are contributing to deforestation and, where applicable, Unilever is taking action.

Deforestation contributes up to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and Unilever purchases nearly 3% of the world’s palm oil production and 1% of its soy. The company is now partnering with Norway to support “resilient social development” initiatives that combat deforestation.

At the Global Climate Action Resilience Day during the UN Climate Change Conference, Unilever and Norway announced a new partnership that will provide more than £305m ($400m) to support new business models that champion forest protection.

Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen said: “I am pleased to announce that Norway with Unilever and other partners is setting up a new $400 million fund to invest in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.

“This should be only one of many new public and private investments in more resilient socioeconomic development.”

In January 2017, Norway pledged to raise $400m by 2020 for investments into agricultural practices that are free from deforestation. By working in partnership with the Global Environment Facility, UN Environment Programme, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and major food companies and environmental NGOs, the investment platform aims to protect more than five million hectares of forests and peatlands – equivalent to the size of Costa Rica.

Marks & Spencer, Mars and Nestlé all expressed support for the initiative at the time, and Unilever was the first corporate investor into the fund, backing it with $25m during a five-year period at the time.

Matt Mace

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