When the drivers of deforestation are buried deep in the supply chain, innovative and collaborative solutions are required. Reducing deforestation is a crucial pathway not only for attending to new market regulations and trends but also for ensuring the sustainability of production. In recognition of Ecuador’s leadership in this space and Viet Nam’s strong interest in deforestation-free production and commercialization, UNDP supported an exchange with Viet Nam, informed by technical presentations from the coffee company, Lavazza, and the international chocolate marketer, Silva Cacao, who have joined Ecuador as partners in their pioneering deforestation-free production efforts. The exchange aimed to provide the necessary background information on EU policies and regulations as well as create an opportunity to exchange experiences related to deforestation-free production.
In September 2022, the European Union passed a ban on imports of deforestation-linked commodities; requiring importing companies to verify whether the products they sell within the EU market are produced in deforested areas. Under the new law, from 2024, commodities found to be linked to land deforestation after December 31, 2020, will be banned from import into the EU. Simultaneously, there are indications that the US Department of State may be exploring similar measures, having requested public feedback on options for combating international deforestation associated with commodities and recommendations for proposal legislation.
These measures are indications of countries taking concrete action to reduce deforestation and forest degradation as a critical climate solution, most recently articulated in 2021, at the COP26 in Glasgow. Signatories to the Glasgow Declaration on Forest and Land Use committed to “halt and reverse” forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while at the same time “delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.” The 141 countries that signed up, including Ecuador and Viet Nam, contain 90% of global forest coverage.
Despite these commitments and emerging regulations, global commodity production remains a leading cause of forest destruction. Producers, companies, governments, and consumers struggle to understand their roles and responsibilities in deforestation and how to operationalize changes that will have substantive impacts. Efforts are often disjointed from one another, and activities linked to the supply chain consequently do not easily integrate with frameworks established to measure progress to meet umbrella goals such as NDCs and SDGs.
During the exchange, which took place virtually on 24 February, Karina Barrera, Undersecretary of Climate Change, Ministry of Environment, Water and Ecological Transition of Ecuador provided invaluable insights into how they designed and built on their NDC, national REDD+ processes and programs to ensure the coffee trade contributes towards their national climate as well as economic development goals. By connecting to years of REDD+ efforts, Ecuador has developed a coherent and integrated narrative, with concrete actions that are promoting direct changes that is leading to innovative transformation to tackle climate change and deforestation. Ecuador has benefitted from technical assistance support from UN-REDD Programme partner agencies since 2012, support that enabled Ecuador to implement its national REDD+ strategy, complete all the requirements to receive REDD+ RBPs, and advance its deforestation-free Premium & Sustainable strategy through its ProAmazonia Initiative.
Mario Cerutti, Lavazza’s Chief Sustainability Officer, discussed the role of private sector companies in collaborating with government and local producers to mitigate climate change and eliminate deforestation. He stressed that the urgency to tackle deforestation and forest degradation and take the necessary actions to mitigate climate change, is tied to the critical need to work with local producers to improve their livelihoods. He also made an interesting remark about using existing processes and keeping an open mind to find feasible solutions without compromising neither the producers nor the companies. He ended by indicating that Lavazza is open to greater collaboration to promote deforestation-free coffee, working together with international partners like UNDP.
Katrien Delaet, co-owner of Silva Cacao, explored the challenges and opportunities of defining the road towards sustainable deforestation-free production. She acknowledged the vital work developed in Ecuador and the importance of understanding the market. Katrien also remarked on the importance of working on quality and consistency and that direct communication between companies and producers is a must.
Mr. Tran Quang Bao, Deputy Director General of the Vietnam Administration of Forestry, reflected on the impact of the EU law particularly on coffee, which is the largest export commodity of Vietnam's agricultural, forestry, and aquatic sector to the European market. He welcomed the lessons Ecuador shared, noting how Karena’s ministry and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock joint hands to implement a dual-pronged strategy to transition to sustainable production and deforestation-free certification. This included further enhancing Ecuador’s forest monitoring systems, a bedrock for traceability, which is a key requirement of the EU law. Mr. Jesus Lavina, Deputy Head of Cooperation from the EU Delegation in Viet Nam, welcomed this initiative for learning exchanges between countries and looked forward to their continuation.
Exchange participants were highly engaged in the discussion, raising questions about the practical aspects of removing deforestation from the supply chain: How to address the drivers of deforestation, who is responsible for them, what information companies will be asked for to demonstrate that products are deforestation-free, how deforestation-free production will be monitored and verified, and how associated costs can be covered through investments and premiums on deforestation-free products. Continuing dialogue and ongoing interaction will provide space to share information to address these considerations.