Palm oil deforestation

The WWF is calling on government to implement a law that cuts out illegal deforestation from supply chains

Vital anti-deforestation targets will be missed without urgent action from big business and international leaders, according to a new WWF report.

With only one month to go until the UN’s annual climate conference in Dubai, the group claimed anti-deforestation pledges made two years ago at COP26 in Glasgow by countries and big corporations – including Unilever and Sainsbury’s – are not on track to be met.

The WWF’s new Forest Pathways Report looked at progress made since 2021 when over 140 countries representing 90% of the world’s forests committed to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, in what became known as the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use.

The study said that “at a global level we are not delivering on pledges made to save forests and we are not moving fast enough to halt and reverse deforestation” by the proposed target.

“Despite commitments from world leaders at COP26 to support trade policies that do not drive deforestation, new analysis in the report reveals that changing land use and decimating forests to supply the international trade in soy, palm oil, cocoa and coffee alone resulted in an estimated 392 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2021,” according to the WWF.

New figures from the Forest Declaration Assessment also published this week revealed that in 2022 alone, global forest loss was 6.6 million hectares and tropical forest loss was 4.1 million hectares – an area the size of Denmark.

The peer-reviewed paper concluded the world remained “off-track” to reach the 2030 goals.

WWF CEO Tanya Steele said that “despite all the promises our leaders have made to turn this around there’s a huge chasm between where we are and where we should be”.

“Even worse, we’re continuing to finance deforestation through the products we buy and the activities governments and businesses support through the subsidies and investments they make,” she added.

“We need accelerated action in the UK and across the world from global leaders and businesses to transform the future for our forests and bring our world back to life.”

Ahead of the UN’s climate conference in the UAE at the end of November, the environmental NGO is calling on the UK government to bring into force a due diligence system to cut deforestation out of supply chains.

The Environment Act 2021 introduced new provisions to make it illegal for larger businesses operating in the UK to use forest-risk commodities that have been grown on land that is illegally occupied or used, in a move that mirrored the EU’s new anti-deforestation regulation.

However, this has not yet been officially implemented.

The WWF urged ministers to extend due diligence obligations to the financial services sector, “which is responsible for billions of pounds of lending and investment to industries linked to deforesting commodities, as well as direct investments in companies trading in deforesting products”, it claimed.

The WWF – which has worked in partnership with British supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s to develop a ‘sustainable basket’ metric that helps companies and consumers evaluate the environmental impact of the food they buy – also wants the introduction of core environmental standards for all food sold in and imported to the UK to make sure “the food in our shopping baskets is not contributing to deforestation”.