Landmark land degradation report
The UN Convention to Combat Desertification
(UNCCD) released its second “Global Land Outlook
” (GLO) report last week. The first GLO report, released in 2017, “underscored the wide-ranging drivers, risks and impacts of persistent land degradation”, according to a news release
put out by the UNCCD. By contrast, the release continued, the report’s second edition laid out the “rationale, enabling conditions and diverse pathways by which countries and communities can design and implement a customised land restoration agenda”. Carbon Brief
picked out the key messages from the report, including the urging from the UNCCD for “world leaders to adopt a ‘crisis footing’ to solve land degradation”.
FOCUS ON FOOD:
The report said that modern, industrialised agriculture is responsible for altering the Earth’s surface “more than any other activity”. Carbon Brief noted that “regulations have not been sufficient to protect ecosystems from agricultural expansion”, citing figures from the report that agriculture is responsible for 80% of global deforestation. Mongabay
noted that Indigenous management and agricultural practices “preserve agrobiodiversity, making food systems more resilient to climate change”. Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine
, a Tuareg Indigenous leader, told the website that Indigenous views must be heard and respected “if we want to learn how to restore, preserve and conserve” the Earth. China Dialogue
wrote that global food systems are “no longer tenable”, nor are global consumption patterns, according to UNCCD executive secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
The report also “describes a range of ongoing restoration efforts” around the world, while “paint[ing] a worrying picture of what could happen by 2050 if humanity fails to protect and restore landscapes”, Science
reported. It pulled some headline statistics from the report: by 2050, “increasing agricultural and bioenergy demands” will lead to the degradation of a further 1.6bn hectares, while farmland and grazing land productivity will drop by at least 12%, “with sub-Saharan Africa affected the most”. China Dialogue
pointed out that, currently, “governments have pledged to restore 1bn hectares of land”. It added that this could be achieved, the report says, “by repurposing…subsidies given to the fossil fuel and agricultural industries”.
Humanity still destroying tropical forests
: The destruction of pristine tropical forests continued at a relentless pace in 2021, creating emissions equivalent to those caused by India’s annual fossil fuel use, according to a new Global Forest Watch
report released at the end of April. Humans cut down 3.75m hectares of primary tropical forest last year, according to the findings – an area equivalent to the size of Belgium. The rate of tropical deforestation has remained “stubbornly high” over the last few years, the report authors said. The report also found that boreal forests – mainly those in Russia – experienced unprecedented tree cover loss in 2021. And the Washington Post
noted that fires drove more than a third of the world’s tree cover loss last year – the largest share on record, according to the findings.
: A second report from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) released in early May also sounded the alarm over rainforest destruction. It found that tropical forest loss accounted for more than 90% of global deforestation from 2000 to 2018, Business Standard
reported. Over this time, 157m hectares of tropical forest were lost – an area roughly the size of western Europe, according to the FAO. Cropland expansion, including for palm oil plantations, was the main driver of global deforestation from 2000 to 2018, accounting for half of tree loss, the report said. Livestock grazing was the second largest driver of deforestation, causing 38.5% of tree loss. In a statement, the FAO’s deputy director-general Maria Helena Semedo said: “Unsustainable agricultural development and other land uses continue to put intense pressure on our forests.”
COP26 PLEDGE IN QUESTION
: New Scientist
and the Guardian
have been among the publications noting that the threat to tropical forests continues despite more than 100 countries pledging to end deforestation this decade at the COP26 climate summit
at the end of 2021. The Guardian reported that the Global Forest Watch findings “prompt[ed] concerns governments will not meet” the COP26 pledge. It carried a quote from Rod Taylor, the global director of the forests programme at the World Resources Institute
(WRI), who said: “High rates of loss continue despite pledges from countries and companies.” When approached by the Guardian, a spokesperson for the Brazilian government – a country with one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world – said they were committed to meeting the COP26 promise, adding they had “dedicated extra resources to meeting the target”.
Indonesian export ban
In a “shock move”, the Indonesian government announced that it planned to ban palm oil exports, Reuters
reported, adding that the cooking oil is the world’s “most widely used vegetable oil”. Exports of both the cooking oil itself and the raw materials to make it are restricted under the policy, which went into effect on 28 April. Reuters added that the move “could raise costs for packaged food producers globally and force governments to choose between using vegetable oils in food or for biofuel”. Indonesian president Joko Widodo said he would “monitor and evaluate” the effects of the policy “so availability of cooking oil in the domestic market becomes abundant and affordable”. However, some executives in the sector told the Economic Times
that “they don’t expect Indonesia’s export ban to last beyond a few weeks”. Mongabay
added that the ban will “cause an artificial shortage on the international market, further driving up global palm oil prices” – but leaving Indonesian farmers unable to profit from those high prices.
In response to the announcement of the export ban, the global oil market “freaked out”, National Public Radio
(NPR) wrote, adding that the “prospect of 50% of the global supply disappearing overnight spooked commodity markets”. Palm oil prices jumped 6%, while “the prices of other edible oils followed suit”, the outlet wrote. NPR also noted that “the price of palm oil mysteriously surged in Indonesia” at the end of 2021. Other edible oil markets have also been volatile lately, several outlets reported. NPR wrote that sunflower oil prices have spiked due to a “sharp decrease in supply due to the war in Ukraine”. Russia and Ukraine, combined, produce about 75% of the world’s sunflower oil, the website noted. Meanwhile, a Bloomberg
column reported that soybean oil prices “have nearly doubled since the start of last year” due to continuing drought in South America.
How producers will respond to the ban “will be of great importance to the continued progress of efforts to support sustainable palm oil production and to curtail palm-linked deforestation”, wrote economist Khor Yu Leng
in China Dialogue
. She noted that the palm-oil industry “has in recent decades acceded to voluntary sustainability schemes”, which, in turn, has “slowed the expansion of the area of industrial plantations”. However, the piece warned that “some buyers and NGOs remain worried about deforestation that may enter supply chains by way of unfettered expansion of smaller estates and smallholder growers”.