Do national strategies under the UN biodiversity and climate conventions address agricultural commodity consumption as deforestation driver?

Photo credit: CIFOR, Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Do national strategies under the UN biodiversity and climate conventions address agricultural commodity consumption as deforestation driver?

New publication on whether or not commodity driven deforestation is acknowledged within national strategies to reach UN biodiversity and climate conventions. Evidently, most documents do not link deforestation to commodity production and consumption, which limits the prospects of safeguarding tropical forests and might jeopardize the conventions overall effectiveness. By focali researchers Madelene Ostwald and Sabine Henders together with Vilhelm Verendel and Pierre Ibisch.


Forest conversion in the tropics is increasingly driven by global demand for agricultural forest-risk commodities such as soy, beef, palm oil and timber. In order to be effective, future forest conservation policies should include measures targeting both producers (the supply side) and consumers (the demand side) to address commodity-driven deforestation. Whereas the UN Conventions on Biodiversity (CBD) and Climate Change (UNFCCC) do not make reference to this driving factor, here we explore whether and how recent national strategies by member states to the Conventions acknowledge the role of agricultural commodities in tropical deforestation. A text analysis of 139 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to climate change mitigation and 132 National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) shows that the general trade-off between national development aspirations and forest conservation is commonly acknowledged. However, only few strategies link deforestation to commodity production and consumption, whereas most documents do not mention this topic. This lack of reference to a key driver of tropical deforestation limits the prospects of safeguarding tropical forests for biodiversity and climate change mitigation purposes as part of the two UN Conventions, and might jeopardise their overall effectiveness.

These findings were complemented by a content analysis of INDCs, NBSAPs and REDD+ documents from eight case countries affected by commodity-driven deforestation. We investigated whether this driver is acknowledged in the national strategies, and which policy measures are suggested to address forest loss from agricultural commodities. We found that six case countries mention agricultural commodities as deforestation driver in their REDD+ documents, whereas the biodiversity and climate change strategies were silent on the topic. Policy measures targeting commodity production were suggested in four REDD+ strategies, ranging from incentive payments, sustainable agricultural practices and land-use planning to demand-side approaches such as certification and the promotion of sustainable lifestyles.

One conclusion from this exercise is that UN member states seem not to consider climate and biodiversity national plans the adequate forum to discuss detailed forest conservation approaches. We argue that in order to increase effectiveness, strategies under the UN Conventions should take commodity-driven deforestation into account, through measures that address both the producer and the consumer side.


Full paper available here.

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