Forest agriculture and commodity trade (fact) dialogue

One of the events at COP26 that I was most excited to watch was the Leader Event: Action on Forests and Land Use. Before COP26 started I had read about the Forest Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue being launched in this session. The FACT dialogue is an attempt to halt and reverse deforestation, which is directly linked to making agriculture sustainable. As a sustainable agriculture PhD student, it is exciting to see countries are coming together to discuss this subject on a worldwide stage.

Deforestation is directly linked to agriculture: about 80% of deforestation is due to land use change, and the spread of inefficient agriculture. Boris Johnson said in his speech today that “International trade standards should reward producers who shift their production to more sustainable methods.” This isn’t currently what happens – but is what FACT aims to achieve.

The event kicked off the leaders of three countries (UK, Indonesia, and Columbia) announcing their declaration to halt and reverse deforestation. Notably, this declaration brings together both exporter and importer countries for the first time. This will hopefully allow for a joined-up effort between the countries where deforestation is occurring, and the countries which purchase the commodities driving it.

Another element of this declaration is the involvement of the private sector and indigenous communities. To halt deforestation a partnership between all the actors to address the economic drivers of deforestation is critical. Technology enables improved tracking of illegal deforestation. Supply chains are also notoriously complicated, but the development of technology helps to make them more transparent. This is where the private sector can be involved, with food companies establishing clear, sustainable supply chains. Indigenous people also are crucial to the protection of the forests worldwide. They are on the ground, and these forests are their homes. The promises made by these countries today must translate into support for these communities.

I am wary of getting excited by declarations; it is very easy to make loud promises but not take any action. However, the breadth of countries involved in this creates a sense of possibility. 28 countries accounting for 75% of the trade in the commodities which are the main drivers of deforestation (cattle, cocoa, soy, timber and palm oil) have already signed this declaration.

I will leave you with a quote from Sandrine Dixson-Declève who hosted this session, which I think captures the importance of our forests worldwide, “Today will be a monumental day, we are now setting the tone for how we can preserve the lungs of the world.”

Written by Jessica Underwood, COPCAS PhD student

University of Reading

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