09/24/2014 12:32 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST

A Step Towards Ending Global Forest Loss

This picture taken on March 12, 2013 shows a deforested hill in Vietnam's central highlands' province of Dak Lak. Studies published in local official media said massive migration into the region in recent years and the increasing value of agricultural products such coffee, rubber, cassava and cashew nuts had contributed to an alarming deforestation in the mountainous area of the region. The studies said the region lost in average some 26,000 hectares of forests each year in the last five years. AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH Nam (Photo credit should read HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

On September 23, 2014, at the UN "Climate Summit 2014: Catalyzing Action," more than 150 governments, businesses, NGOs, Civil Society Organizations, and Indigenous Peoples world endorsed a declaration to help safeguard the world's forests and tackle climate change. The New York Declaration on Forests represents an unprecedented effort by developed and developing countries to partner around a shared goal of ending global forest loss and committing to a concrete timeline to realize their goal to accomplish this goal.

This is an important global leadership commitment to slow, halt and then reverse global forest loss. It also demonstrates a shift in how the world tackles climate change, from reliance on Governmental action towards progressive policy adoption by businesses. This is why the declaration's signatories include large agribusinesses with the scale to lead the Zero Deforestation movement.

Businesses often have greater agility than governments, so they can mobilize resources more quickly and implement the required steps to tackle urgent deforestation and climate change issues.

Specifically, the partnership will strive to achieve the following goals:

  • At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and an end to natural forest loss by 2030

  • Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and an additional 200 million hectares by 203

  • Realize the collective target of achieving a reduction in emissions by 4.5-8.8 billion tons per year by 2030.

The declaration also marks an increased emphasis on emerging markets and the integral role they must play in bringing about change through sustainable forest landscape management. A number of South East Asian businesses, including Asia Pulp & Paper, are signatories of the declaration -- because it is in the tropics that the most impactful changes can be made. Businesses in the region must master the very delicate balance between forest conservation, biodiversity protection, economic growth, poverty alleviation and the needs of local communities.

If forestry businesses can achieve this balance, they will ensure that forests flourish, while also securing their own long term ability to generate profit.

Consumers all over the world can play a critical role in this by using their purchasing power to reward companies that commit to urgently implementing Zero Deforestation policies. Such market signals will enable suppliers of sustainable forestry products to grow, while putting economic pressure on laggards.

Now the hard work begins. All the declaration's signatories must put aside any differences and work together to accelerate progress. There is no time to waste.

Ian Lifshitz is North American director of sustainability & stakeholder relations at Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP), the world's second largest pulp & paper company. To learn more about APP's community initiatives and sustainability efforts, visit the website


NASA Deforestation Pics