The Kadin Pledge: A Watershed Moment for Forests at the UN Climate Summit

Yesterday, at the UN Climate Summit in New York City, four major palm oil companies joined with the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Kadin, in calling upon the Indonesian government to eliminate deforestation and peatland destruction nationwide.  The four companies–Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Cargill, and Asian Agri–all reaffirmed their commitments to eliminate deforestation in their supply chains and called on the Indonesian government to be a partner in enshrining these reforms into national law.  

Here is Forest Heroes statement in support of the Kadin pledge, delivered at the Summit:

Statement on Kadin Pledge, delivered at the UN Climate Summit in New York City

Glenn Hurowitz, Chairman, Forest Heroes

September 23, 2014

New York – Today marks a watershed moment in the history of both Indonesia and global agriculture. We should not underestimate the significance of what is happening. Indonesia’s biggest agriculture producers are realizing that it is possible to grow more food while protecting forests, communities, and the global climate.  

This realization is upending one of the most fundamental theories about civilization’s growth. For thousands of years, people have assumed that spreading civilization meant converting diverse natural ecosystems into monocultures that served only man. Today, the actions of these companies and the Indonesian government are showing that that assumption is not true. We are seeing a second green revolution unfold before our eyes.

There are millions of acres of degraded land that are available for planting across Indonesia. Forest conservation policies are driving farmers to invest in expansion through yield improvement instead of forest clearance.  This development is having profound economic effects.

The rise of the “Asian tiger” economies has been one of the most profound developments of the past half-century. Too often in the past, this growth has come at the expense of forests, clean water, and clean air, and has damaged the well-being of the very communities it was meant to help. Today’s announcement shows that Asia’s economic future belongs to the Green Tigers, those companies and countries that understand that protecting forests and communities is essential to growth.

The companies here today are realizing that protecting forests is essential to securing market access around the world. Consumers want to know where their food comes from and that it’s produced in a way that is consistent with their values. That means that it’s produced in ways that do not harm forests or the climate, strengthen local communities, and respect workers’ and women’s rights. Companies that continue to clear forests or peatland or abuse human rights will simply not be able to sell to high-value markets.

Wall Street is weighing in too. Investors are increasingly wary of providing finance to companies engaged in deforestation. The message is clear: no forests, no cash. But companies that act responsibly will find what these companies are finding: investors are ready to finance the next stage of agriculture’s growth, so long as it is compatible with their goals to protect the forests.

Of course, companies cannot secure lasting gains for forests alone. They need government to ensure that rogue actors don’t undermine them by continuing to engage in deforestation. Government must be a partner in monitoring and enforcing these policies. There is much work to be done, but the Indonesian government’s strong support for these announcements could mean a real change.

The companies here today have created a dramatic political realignment. Companies that were once associated with deforestation are now calling on the government to ensure agriculture’s growth by protecting forests. Courageous private sector action has created a huge, but fleeting, opportunity for the Indonesian government to secure forest and community protection for the long term. Now it is up to the government to seize that opportunity.

On behalf of the Forest Heroes campaign and our millions of supporters around the world, I am here to say that we will support the Indonesian government as it does the hard work to realize this opportunity. As Indonesia makes progress, we will encourage the world’s biggest businesses and financiers to buy responsibly produced Indonesian agricultural products. We will work with governments around the world to provide incentives and training to smallholders to enable them to make a rapid transformation to deforestation-free production as well. And we will work hand in hand to spread this progress across commodities and around the world.

Congratulations to Dharsono Hartono, the US government, Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources, Cargill and all the Forest Heroes who made this moment possible.

On September 24, 2014
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