Food companies’ plans for 1.5C climate target fall short, campaigners say

The world’s biggest food companies, whose products have been linked to the widespread destruction of rainforests, have failed to come up with an adequate strategy to align their business practices with the 1.5°C climate target, according to activists.

Major producers of soybeans, palm oil, cocoa and livestock released their roadmap to align with 1.5C earlier this week, promising to develop and publish product-specific targets and time-bound to stop deforestation, which will be backed by science and verified annually. Companies include Brazilian beef company JBS, US agricultural company Cargill and Singaporean agribusiness company Wilmar International.

Land use change is the second biggest driver of global warming behind the burning of fossil fuels and the biggest cause of biodiversity loss, while halting the destruction of rainforests is a key part of tackling crises climate and biodiversity. To comply with 1.5C, all land use conversion must stop by 2030 with significant progress made by the middle of the decade, scientists say.

While campaigners acknowledge progress has been made, particularly with palm oil, they say companies have largely failed to deliver on the ambition they promised on soy and beef.

The disagreement between activists and companies centers on when companies should stop deforestation. Cristiane Mazzetti, forestry campaign manager at Greenpeace Brazil, said some of the companies had previously promised to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains by 2020 and had failed.

“We can no longer afford greenwashing or reckless behavior from these companies who profit from the destruction of ecosystems and come up with more delays and inadequate plans to stop and reverse the destruction they cause and which will continue to fry the planet,” she said.

Malaysia and Indonesia, home to most of the world’s palm oil industry, have managed to reduce deforestation in recent years, in part thanks to better regulation.

Nico Muzi, chief executive of environmental group Madre Brava, said the plan announced at Cop27 was some progress, but said commitment fell short of what was needed, particularly in the meat sector. . “There are two glaring omissions: a deadline to stop soybean deforestation now, and the exclusion of cattle conversion and soybean expansion from South America’s largest savanna region, the Cerrado in Brazil,” she said.

André Vasconcelos of Global Canopy said the plan was encouraging as the companies involved accounted for more than 60% of Brazilian soybean exports, 50% of Brazilian beef and 45% of Indonesia’s palm oil exports in 2020. , although some of the main producers were missing. . But he added that the companies needed to go further for the plan to be credible.

“Combating deforestation is an integral part of keeping below 1.5°C,” he said. “Traders need to go further, faster. The roadmap must take a proactive stance to avoid future deforestation and conversion, including a concrete commitment not to invest in the development of additional infrastructure at key frontiers of deforestation. There must be a commitment to a common deadline for all products that includes all types of ecosystems.

Jack Hurd, executive director of the Tropical Forest Alliance which helped oversee the roadmap through the World Economic Forum, said he disagreed that insufficient progress had been made and expressed particular satisfaction with the development of the cattle industry.

“These companies often process one or more of the commodities. It is important to remember this. We work in several sectors. The main asset is the oil palm sector. It worked very well and set a clear path towards 1.5°C.

“Our view is that the soy sector has room to grow. The cattle sector has plans that are aligned with 1.5C. Science says deforestation and all land use change must end by 2030, with significant reductions by 2025. In our opinion, they have made a big step forward in priority biomes,” did he declare.

Wilmar International, a major palm oil supplier, highlighted the sector’s success in reducing deforestation, adding: “Each commodity sector has varying commitments and indicators – some more comprehensive and progressive. that others. The criticisms made so far have incorrectly and unfairly consolidated all commodity sectors towards the lowest commitment.

Cargill and JBS did not respond to a request for comment.

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