Norway is setting up a new fund that will raise USD 400 million to stop tropical deforestation and boost forest-friendly farming. The fund is backed by major food companies such as Nestlé and Unilever.
The fund, which was announced at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday, will encourage small-scale farmers to stop destroying tropical rainforests.
According to the WEF, agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres of forest were cut down.
Asides from the loss of biodiversity and the negative impact that deforestation has on indigenous communities, tropical rainforests are one of our Earth’s few natural carbon sinks. Wiping them out weakens our planet’s ability to absorb greenhouse gas emissions.
“The future of the planet depends on our common ability to both protect and restore forests at unprecedented scale, while simultaneously increasing agricultural production to meet growing global needs,” Erna Solberg, Norway’s prime minister, said in Davos.
The fund aims to protect over 5 million hectares of forests and peatlands by 2020, equivalent to the size of Costa Rica. It will focus on helping small-scale farmers intensify agricultural production on existing arable land, as opposed to expanding into tropical forests.
The fund will also help rainforest countries meet their commitments under the UN Paris Climate Agreement. Brazil, for example, committed to 12 million hectares of forest restoration and 20 million hectares of sustainable intensification of agriculture as part of the Paris Climate Agreement.
“This fund will help us develop scalable models to achieve that,” said Roberto Jaguaribe, president of Brazil’s trade and investment promotion agency.
The fund will be launched with an initial commitment of USD 100 million from the Norwegian government, with plans to raise up to USD 400 million by 2020 with help from the private sector.
The consumer goods giant Unilever, which produces everything from detergent to tea, is the first corporate investor in the fund, investing USD 25 million over a five-year period. Other major food companies to express support for the fund include Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Mars, Metro and Nestlé.
Image credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT), flickr