Zero deforestation, deforestation free, carbon neutral, climate smart and a host of other terminologies

 

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“Slash-and-burn land clearing of old rubber agroforest – such practices can continue under ‘deforestation-free’ claims. Photo credit: Meine van Noordwijk/ICRAF

Attention to detail is necessary for zero deforestation intentions to succeed, say scientists

With the realization that climate change is real, consumers are demanding products that come from responsible manufacturing processes. But do market branding terms such as zero deforestation, deforestation free, carbon neutral, climate smart have any meaning? A new book by the European Tropical Forest Network investigates if deforestation-free claims are genuine or simply designed to influence purchase decisions.

Consumers worldwide are becoming aware of how manufacturing processes contribute to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, and in the long term lead to climate change. With this knowledge, they are demanding products that come from responsible value chains, right from the point of the production and extraction of raw materials to delivery at retail points. Manufacturers have responded to this call by consumers by using labels such as zero deforestation, deforestation free, carbon neutral, climate smart and a host of other terminologies.

Methods used by UNFCCC to account for emissions focus on the supply side, based on country land area and production systems and nationally determined contributions (NDCs). However, a new study suggests that by using demand-side accounting, looking at human population and per capita emissions based on lifestyle, individually determined contributions to climate mitigation can complement nationally determined contributions.

“Labelling products as ‘deforestation-free’ as an attempt to satisfy consumers’ demand only takes into consideration one side of the production chain without consideration for the connection with other drivers of deforestation,” said Dr. Meine van Noordwijk, a scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre and lead author of an introductory paper.

Making the connection between deforestation and the economy

The study explored this connection from seven perspectives: when, how and why zero deforestation claims arise in global trade; how forest definitions relate to zero deforestation claims; the degree of variation in ‘footprints’ of equivalent products; tracking products that go through multiple market transactions as opposed to easy-to-follow vertically integrated value chains; interaction of all participants in totality in a value chain without isolation of those that are responsible producers; personal consumer decisions in relation to lifestyle choices, dietary changes and waste reduction that may have a bigger effect than simply choosing products with smaller carbon footprints; and how improved productivity and value chains can contribute to green economies.

Read the full article: Agroforestry World

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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.