- Eight soy producers published a statement last week committing to halting deforestation in the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco biomes by 2025 and the conversion of “non-forest primary native vegetation” by 2030.
- The companies include ADM, Amaggi, Bunge, Cargill, COFCO, LDC, Olam Agri and Viterra.
- Conservation groups have pointed out that without an immediate ban on deforestation, the new commitments would allow soy producers to continue clearing forests in years to come.
Some of the world’s largest soy producers have announced improved commitments to stopping deforestation in vulnerable biomes throughout South America. But despite the improvements, the commitments might still not be enough to meet international climate goals, critics said.
Eight soy producers published a statement last week committing to halting deforestation in the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco biomes by 2025 and the conversion of “non-forest primary native vegetation” by 2030. The stronger language of the commitments gives them a wider, more ambitious scope than previous ones but still might not align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperatures below 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit).
“Despite these signs of individual progress, the collective target laid out in the joint statement does not provide the level of ambition needed to reduce deforestation and conversion in line with a 1.5°C pathway,” the Accountability Framework Initiative, a coalition of organizations combating deforestation, said in a statement.
Soy traders ADM, Amaggi, Bunge, Cargill, COFCO, LDC, Olam Agri and Viterra announced the new deforestation commitments at COP28, the annual global climate conference. They were presented as an update to the Agriculture Sector Roadmap to 1.5°C, a pathway to ultimately eliminate deforestation from soy supply chains.
Deforestation linked to soy rose last year in the Brazilian Amazon, possibly due to higher prices, according to Monitoring of the Amazon Project (MAAP). Between 2020 and 2022, soy resulted in at least 42,000 hectares (103,784 acres) of direct conversion of primary forest for the cultivation of soy. Other parts of the Amazon, like in Bolivia, have seen more than 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) cleared for soy between 2001 and 2021, according to MAAP.
Part of the difficulty has been confirming whether soy from direct and indirect suppliers was grown on newly deforested land. It requires working with suppliers, government officials and NGOs while also monitoring satellite data.
“We are committed, with relevant legal limits, to increasing transparency across the soy value chain, increasing traceability within high-risk areas and further monitoring for heightened accountability,” the soy producers’ statement said.
But some environmental groups have pointed out flaws in the commitments. There should be an immediate ban on deforestation, conservation group Mighty Earth said, not a long-term target that allows soy traders to deforest for several more years.
The Paris Agreement establishes that deforestation from agriculture must be eliminated globally by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5°C, which means that land use change caused by soy cultivation is best removed “well before” that date, the group argued.
Forests outside of the Amazon, Cerrado and Chaco — most notably the Pampas in Argentina, the Atlantic Forest in Brazil and Chiquitano dry forest in Bolivia — aren’t as protected by the commitments and could see continued deforestation if soy traders don’t impose more ambitious goals.
Mighty Earth also said commitments in the Cerrado are misleading because a large part of its savanna — around 80 million hectares (198 million acres) — isn’t defined as “forest” by FAO, so those areas will still be vulnerable in the coming years.
“This new soy traders’ commitment at COP28 allows them to continue clearing, burning and destroying non-forest ecosystems until 2030 and could be the death knell for the Cerrado,” said Alex Wijeratna, senior director at Mighty Earth.
Banner image: Soy plantations in Mato Grosso, Brazil. (Photo courtesy of gridarendal/Flickr)
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