04 Sep 2020
Survey, Mapping & Spatial Planning
Research & Analysis
Governance, Policy & Institutional Strengthening
Posted04 Sep 2020
International deforestation statistics are compelling. Annual tree cover loss is regularly reported at the size of entire countries and this is rapidly increasing. We know that addressing deforestation is essential to climate mitigation – yet forests receive just 3% of available climate mitigation finance. This is despite recognised additional deforestation risks of biodiversity loss and disease spread (including COVID-19).
In light of the need for increased measures to meet deforestation reduction goals, the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has issued a consultation document “Due Diligence on Forest Risk Commodities“. Essentially DEFRA is asking whether it should introduce a new law to help prevent illegal deforestation through increased regulation on UK supply chains. An obvious answer is yes – any available step to prevent illegal deforestation should be taken. But there is a need to recognise that actual forest gains in-country will require further initiatives that more directly assist local governments and citizens to plan, measure and enforce forest-related activities.
The UK’s proposed law would require larger businesses, targeted since they have the capacity to influence producers, to ensure that the commodities they use are produced legally, and do not cause wide-scale deforestation. The impetus for action signalled by the proposal follows similar action and consideration by the EU and US. These in turn follow a raft of voluntary actions – FLEGT, SDGs, RAI, FPIC, etc. – that are clearly limited in impact, given reports that the overall rate of commodity-driven deforestation has not declined since 2001. The failure of these instruments arguably goes beyond the simple refrain that voluntary actions cannot be enforced – it signals the difference between international policies and direct action on the ground.
The UK’s proposed law presupposes that low-income country governments have sufficient capacity and infrastructure in place to effectively categorise, monitor and manage forests and deforestation – thereby enabling businesses to report on illegal (versus presumably legal) deforestation. In practice, this means that countries must have spatial data identifying the location and extents of different forest and land use classifications. If available, it presumes that such data aligns with on-the-ground realities. It expects that governments at all levels can monitor, update, enforce and penalise infringements. In short, it presumes that countries have spatial plans in place, at national through to local levels, and capacity to act.
These ‘green’ spatial plans need also to be inclusive, that is to recognise the political and social practices that are fundamental to forest processes. Indeed, it is reported that where indigenous territories are legally recognised, deforestation rates are up to seven times lower.
The Papua Spatial Planning project implemented by LEI and Daemeter, in partnership with the Government of Indonesia and UK FCDO, is a technical assistance facility that supports capacity, socialisation, and improvements to technical processes and systems for spatial planning in Papua and West Papua.. These provinces, two of the most heavily forested in Indonesia, provide the largest opportunity to efficiently and effectively achieve emission reduction targets and more sustainable forest management practices. The project has identified key areas to provide support over the coming 2.5 years that contribute to investor due diligence and forest landscape management including, but not limited to:
These activities – contributing to what we call ‘green and inclusive spatial planning’ – are fundamental to tackling deforestation, whilst crucially facilitating free, prior, and informed consent, and enabling governments to effectively plan for sustainable economic development. Due diligence measures, like those proposed in the UK, will only be effective in preventing illegal deforestation if accompanied by on-the-ground measures that support local through to national governments to develop and implement green and inclusive spatial planning.