The latest ZSL Spott assessment of 100 leading palm oil companies shows improving commitment by the sector to tacking deforestation, with two-thirds of the companies committed to zero deforestation ahead of the December 2024 rollout of the European Union’s Deforestation Regulation. However, the challenge is going to be in disclosure to ensure compliance, as less than 12% of the companies have made public the geolocation of supplier plantations, which is essential data for verifying zero deforestation and integral to meeting the EUDR requirements.
Just under 54% of the companies have publicly disclosed locations of their own plantations and less than 16% of managed smallholder suppliers specifically. Clearly there is a sector-wide need for significant investment in traceability – perhaps a potential benefit of the EUDR. But how smallholders will be included remains unclear.
Côte D’Ivoire’s cashew challenge
Environmental campaigning group Mighty Earth has released research into the impact of the cashew sector in Côte D’Ivoire. The west African nation is the world’s top exporter of cashew, worth just under a $1bn in 2021 and representing over a million tonnes of nuts from 1.6m hectares under cultivation. The total global cashew market is estimated at $7bn. Côte D’Ivoire has had significant deforestation impacts over the past few decades. Mighty Earth says the country has seen as much as a 25% loss of primary forest between 2019 and 2023, and over 90% loss in the last 30 years.
Cocoa farming has been the main driver of this, but cashew is now threatening forested savannah landscapes that are crucial for biodiversity. In some instances farmers are becoming over-reliant on cashew markets, which can crash in times of supply glut. Mighty Earth is calling on the sector to collaborate to help farmers with more sustainable practices and to restore landscapes. The group also wants to see the development of more transparency and banning of products linked to deforestation.
Urgent action required at COP, again
All eyes are turning towards the COP28 UN climate talks in Dubai – many are hoping for a meeting that reflects the energy and progress made in Glasgow two years ago rather than the more lacklustre events in Sharm el-Sheikh in 2022. As ever, urgent action is necessary. A new UN report finds that the current national plans – the so-called nationally determined contributions – to reduce emissions will actually lead to a combined 8.8% increase by 2030 compared to 2010 levels. To achieve the Paris accord target of holding the global temperature rise to 1.5C requires a cut in emissions of 45% by 2030. There is a chink of light in that the combined plans were found last year to be leading to an increase of over 10%, so the direction of travel is at least in the right direction.
Also more positive is the report from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change concluding that if the 75 countries that have submitted long-term plans follow through on their commitments, their emissions will decline 63% by 2050 from 2019 levels. These countries represent 68% of the global population and 77% of global greenhouse gas emissions.