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In a year when targets on forest loss and restoration are likely to be set nationally and at the UN level, this study by WWF-UK and Climate Advisers quantifies the ambition of commitments currently stated by forest countries to slow and reverse their forest loss – individually and collectively.

The commitments are assessed against two targets: first, the goal of Zero Net Deforestation and Degradation by 2020, as advocated by WWF; and, second, halving the rate of natural forest loss by 2020 and eliminating it by 2030. The latter is based on the timeline in New York Declaration on Forests made in September 2014. 

Our report focused on a sample of 14 countries which together represent over half of current and projected tropical forest area loss. It draws attention to the ambitious targets of some countries and the need for greater international support for meeting them. It also identifies opportunities where additional ambition is possible. In selecting the 14 countries, we focused on those that fall within 11 global ‘deforestation fronts’ identified by WWF earlier in 2015. 

In total, the targets of the fourteen countries combined would reduce annual forest loss in the tropics by an area the size of Belgium in 2020. But this is still just a 30% cut on the total expected loss across all deforesting tropical countries. Moreover, up to 95% of these reductions could be conditional on international finance – from wealthier governments or the private sector.

If we could agree and work together to achieve ZND by 2020 in the sampled 14 countries alone could save 3 gigatonnes in annual carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 – more than the annual emissions of Germany and India combined.

Businesses have a big role to play too. This study found that company pledges to deforestation-free supply chains of palm oil, soy and beef could match and outstretch the ambition of Government targets if they are delivered in full.

WWF-UK’s Chief Adviser on Forests, Will Ashley-Cantello said:

“This year, Governments are tasked with negotiating a new global climate deal by December when a summit will take place in Paris. They are also due to sign off on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals in the UN in September. The message to the negotiators from this report is clear: aim higher. 

“Few forest nations have set clear targets on forest loss or emissions, and fewer still aim for zero. And the financial support on the table is paltry – roughly equating to a mere twenty two cents per tonne of CO2 emissions that would be saved under the declaration. People pay more for a litre of petrol.”

“The New York Declaration on Forests gave hope to a zero deforestation future. But it remains a voluntary agreement signed by only 36 countries. There is no pretending that ending deforestation will be easy. But that is all the more reason for big commitments and big incentives from governments and business alike.

The 14 countries included in the study were: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Paraguay, Peru and Tanzania. Each country affects one or more of the 11 global ‘deforestation fronts’. 

Zero net deforestation - summary