There is a coalition of governments and private business aimed at fighting climate change. The Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) is a public-private initiative including the UK, Norway, and the US governments and a collection of private companies, including Amazon, Bayer, Airbnb, Boston Consulting Group to GlaxoSmithKline, McKinsey, Salesforce, Unilever, and now Nestlé.

The (LEAF) Coalition plans to mobilise at least $1 billion in financing to protect tropical forests and the people who reside in or depend on them, and to support sustainable development.

The LEAF coalition is a groundbreaking example of the scale and type of collaboration that is needed to fight the climate crisis and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050 – John Kerry U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

The company said in a press release that it was critical to end deforestation by 2030 if they were to meet other sustainability goals. The funding element of the programme will be used to reward companies for results. In other words countries like Brazil, whose polarising leader Jair Bolsonaro believes their Amazon forests are an asset the country should exploit, would be rewarded instead for preserving it.

The informative LEAF website actually references Brazil to illustrate the effects of results-based financing against deforestation. Here’s an excerpt from one article.

Results-based payments have already shown results, even at low scale. Over the period from 2004-2012, Brazil demonstrated that a combination of indigenous territories and protected areas, strengthened law enforcement, finance reforms, supply chain initiatives plus some at-scale incentives can achieve dramatic results.

During this period, Amazon deforestation fell by 80%, reducing an estimated 3 billion tons CO₂e, or more than any other country has achieved in terms of reducing global emissions. It is also true that with lapsed enforcement, scant economic incentives to protect forest, and a government hostile to forest protection and indigenous rights, in 2019 deforestation rose to its highest level since 2008. While this trend is a major concern, deforestation remains below pre-2005 levels.

The finance would be ‘results-driven, meaning cash would only be paid if targets were achieved. It may be crude but it’s nevertheless a pragmatic approach to the problem, although I doubt anyone knows how successful it will be, and presumably there is a stick somewhere in the message to accompany the carrot.

The coalition members hope to meet the milestone as a result, not only of investment of funds but also to change practices within their own organisations. The organisations involved have committed to cutting the emissions they produce in their supply chain, and these are scientific targets aligned to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Nestle said in the press release:

Nestlé’s ongoing actions to protect and restore tropical forests where and near to where it sources its main ingredients form part of the company’s 2050 climate roadmap.

The company went on to point out their decade-long commitments to no-deforestation, citing their existing programme and toolset. Much of the focus has been on satellite tracking and supply chain management which they would then have certified. A certain amount of cynicism accompanied the value of these certifications in the past, however, in recent years there is a feeling that companies are starting to look seriously at the problem.

Tackling deforestation and restoring forests are must-win battles for addressing global climate change. Nestlé is proud to join the LEAF Coalition, working with national governments and other companies to accelerate climate action. This complements our drive towards reaching net zero emissions, achieving deforestation-free supply chains and planting the equivalent of 200 million trees by 2030 – Mark Schneider, Nestlé CEO

The company participation in LEAF is hopefully an indicator that it’s time for businesses to move beyond dubious audits and certificates, to enable real change through proactive conservation practices on top of education and supply chain tracking.

Read more on the LEAF Coalition website

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