Norway is the first country in the world to commit to no longer using any products that contribute to deforestation.
That’s pretty remarkable, because while during the last few years a number of companies have stopped working with goods that can be linked to the destruction of rain forests, such an action has not been matched by governments.
A little more than five years ago, at the United Nations Climate Summit 2014 held in New York, the Norwegian government made a pledge with Germany and the United Kingdom that it would “promote national commitments that encourage deforestation-free supply chains, including through public procurement policies to sustainably source commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber.” In 2016, the Norwegian government made good on that promise by officially declaring that the government’s public procurement policy will become deforestation-free. In other words, the Norwegians will not award any of its government contracts to companies that take part in clear-cutting.
This isn’t the first time that Norway has put into practice “speaking for the trees.” The act of banning deforestation from the supply chain only continues the country’s long-standing history of protecting the world’s vital forests.
Forests full of purpose
According to World Wildlife Fund, forests cover 31 percent of the land on Earth. They are the planet’s “lungs,” producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. Deforestation is estimated to contribute around 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
Not only does deforestation contribute to climate change, it can also disrupt natural cycles. Removal of trees can influence regional water patterns, resulting in changes in precipitation and river flow, and contribute to erosion.
Forests also provide homes to people and much of the world’s wildlife. There are 1.6 million people who rely on forests for clothing, food, fresh water, medicines and shelter. Eighty percent of the world’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many species won’t survive if they experience loss of habitat.
Norway’s history of help
People, however, sometimes see forests as obstacles they must remove. Around 46,000 to 58,000 square miles of forest are lost each year—a rate equal to 48 football fields every minute.
The biggest driver of deforestation is agriculture. Farmers often rid their land of trees to make room for livestock using a slash-and-burn process. When trees are burned, they release CO2, one of the biggest contributors to climate change.
Between 2000 and 2011, beef, palm oil (for cooking), soy (for food products and wax candles) and wood products in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and Paraguay were responsible for 40 percent of the world’s tropical deforestation and 44 percent of carbon emissions. By stopping the purchase of these products on a large scale, the Norwegian government is helping to halt the destruction.
To further counteract such statistics, Norway has also invested large sums of money in Brazil, Indonesia and Liberia to help those nations combat deforestation within their borders. For example, in 2008, Norway gave Brazil $1 billion to help protect the Amazon Rain Forest. The Amazon has lost approximately 17 percent of its trees in the last 50 years, according to World Wildlife Fund. The investment has paid off: by 2015, Brazil had reduced deforestation rates by 75 percent. That represents the single biggest emissions cut in that time period, saving 33,000 square miles of ancient rain forests and keeping 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It’s the equivalent in CO2 emission savings of taking all U.S. cars off the road for a year.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon praised the Brazil-Norway partnership as “an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet.”
A fund for biodiversity
Norway’s declaration and subsequent action plan also included a request from its parliament that the government consider the protection of biodiversity in its investments through the Government Pension Fund Global (GFPG). The GFPG is the largest sovereign wealth fund anywhere in the world and thus can impact markets depending on investment decisions. The fund had been taking into account climate change when determining investment strategies but had not to that point considered biodiversity.
Sadly, at the current rate of deforestation, the world’s rain forests could completely vanish within 100 years. But by becoming the first country to make such a large-scale move against the practice, Norway is setting an example that I hope the rest of our globe’s nations—including our own—will soon follow.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,