Less than eight months ago, heads of state and government from 141 countries met at the world climate conference in Glasgow. There they pledged to stop forest loss and soil degradation by 2030.
However, new data from the Global Forest Watch platform shows that the world is far from winning this battle. Last year, 3.75 million hectares of primeval forest were lost in the tropics – that corresponds to an area the size of ten football pitches every minute. If the world does not stop the overexploitation of forests now, the effects of the climate crisis will be even more severe than they already are. In addition, the global food crisis means that overexploitation of forests must finally be reversed.
The summit of the G7 countries planned for June 26-28 in Elmau, Bavaria will be marked by Russia’s war against Ukraine, by exploding energy and food prices and the climate crisis. These central challenges certainly do not allow measures against the deforestation of tropical forests to be postponed for the time being. Because the problem of deforestation is closely linked to the other challenges.
That is why the heads of state and government from Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, Great Britain and the USA – who, incidentally, all signed the Glasgow climate targets – should seriously consider at Schloss Elmau how to convert forest areas into other forms of land use can end.
It has been proven that forest loss is a driving factor for the climate crisis. Increasing climate volatility would likely result in the world’s major food-producing regions becoming non-functional in the future.
Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine illustrates the devastating impact on global food security of the disruption to agricultural commodity exports from Ukraine – one of the world’s great breadbaskets. If we don’t finally do something about the deforestation of the tropical forests, these devastating consequences will become our constant companions.
The motto of the G7 summit under Germany’s presidency is “Progress for a just world”. From Schloss Elmau, “a common signal should go out from strong democracies that are aware of their global responsibility,” explained Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz. A signal that is more important than ever.
However, the G7 countries are large consumers of those commodities that drive forest loss, such as soybeans, beef, palm oil, pulp, rubber and cocoa. From 2005 to 2017, members of the G7 and other EU countries were responsible for almost a third of tropical forests cut.
After all, the communiqué drawn up by the G7 environment ministers in Berlin in May contains the right thrust. They came together, it says, “to address the diverse crises that threaten our climate and environment and are having serious impacts on the planet, life and livelihoods, and the needs of next generations around the world.” . Ministers also committed to sustainable supply chains to support the Glasgow goals.
But the forests on which humanity’s continued development depends require more than kind words and repeated commitments. The leaders of the G7 must take three effective measures in particular.
First, the G7 countries must enter into so-called due diligence agreements that would ban imports of goods linked to deforestation in the tropics. The European Union, the USA and Great Britain are increasingly making efforts in this direction. They must now be coordinated and implemented consistently.
US President Joe Biden has meanwhile instructed his government to present options for combating international deforestation. The same focus can also be found in a draft regulation of the European Commission. In the UK, on the other hand, due diligence legislation is about to be passed. All of these steps are welcome, but time is of the essence. That is why Canada and Japan are called upon to finally work together on corresponding strategies.
Second, the G7 countries must recognize that regulation, while essential, must be complemented by technical and financial assistance to producing countries. Otherwise, at the end of the supply chain, they can hardly make a credible commitment to reducing deforestation.
Many producers of agricultural commodities are smallholders, such as cocoa farmers in West Africa or palm oil producers in Southeast Asia. At a time of sharp market volatility and rising food prices, consumer nations need to combine due diligence with a generous support package. Technical assistance and climate finance are needed to achieve a fairer transition.
Third, G7 members should work with other emerging consumer markets and launch more ambitious commitments and actions. China in particular plays a crucial role in global supply chains.
It is believed that Chinese demand for forest-threatening commodities could soar as its reliance on imported food and feed grows. This must be prevented at all costs. Instead, China should and could take the lead in making positive changes in this area.
The G7 summit offers a unique opportunity to advance global measures against the overexploitation of tropical forests, without which our planet will no longer be habitable for all people in the long term. Therefore, the heads of state and government of the G7 in Elmau should take concrete steps to defuse this risk.
Cracking down on deforestation would be the right strategy, and it must not be neglected on the summit agenda. Resolving today’s challenges with determination to give us and our planet a future is the foremost task of our leaders. The following applies: the world has no more time to lose.