LIMA, Peru—Early successes in Brazil and Indonesia are proof positive that low-emissions sustainable development is practicable, according to a land-use policy expert.
Speaking to more than 1,000 participants at the Global Landscapes Forum—organized by the Center for International Forestry Research on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Lima, Peru—Daniel Nepstad, Executive Director of the Earth Innovation Institute, laid out the changes that have taken place in parts of the two countries and how they could be replicated with three key “ingredients”: positive incentives, shared metrics and reliable monitoring.
“We have too many definitions of success,” Nepstad said. “A typical Mato Grosso [Brazil] farmer has to deal with seven different definitions of success in dealing with deforestation. And that contributes to their frustration.”
And despite landscape-level successes, smallholders like those face worse burdens, he said.
“Smallholder, agrarian farm settlements have literally been left out of this progress. What really strikes me, though, is this success has not yet translated into heroes on the ground. We have heroes who have implemented the law, who have done the right thing, who have intensified their cattle production, and yet they are not recognized. They feel, if anything, that they’re still villains.”
Yet Nepstad extolled successes in Brazil and pointed to recent developments in palm oil development in Kalimantan, Indonesia, as an example of a landscape approach bearing fruit.
“Communities now, instead of producing 11 percent of palm oil, are producing 20 percent, which is their target for 2020. Investment is flowing in. Eastern and Western Kalimantan, Sabah, the entire province—the entire island—is moving towards this agenda in a race to the top. Because they see that it brings benefits and you can get re-elected on this agenda.
Watch Nepstad’s speech, above, or read an edited transcript, below.
Transcript of Daniel Nepstad’s speech:
The big, winning solution against climate change in the near term is going to be from the land. And yet, at the same time, we need to grow more. I’d just like to take one minute and look at Brazil’s history on this issue.
Brazil, if we look at the state by state performance, phenomenal progress towards what we might call low emissions, sustainable, equitable development. If we define that approach to achieve health landscapes as focused on getting more food, more forests, better livelihoods, and lower emissions, Brazil has achieved three of those at scale. Deforestation with the new numbers is down 75 percent below the 10-year average. Look at Mato Grasso … Soy production has increased almost fourfold. Enormous increases in the cattle herd. As deforestation has fallen three-quarters. This is success.
On livelihoods, there’s been expansions of indigenous reserves and territorial claims, and marcation. But small holder, agrarian farm settlements have literally been left out of this progress with some important exceptions. What really strikes me, though, is this success has not yet translated into heroes on the ground.
A typical Mato Grosso farmer has to deal with seven different definitions of success in dealing with deforestation
We have heroes who have implemented the law, who have done the right thing, who have intensified their cattle production, and yet they are not recognized. They feel, if anything, that they’re still villains. There’s been exclusion from markets, exclusion from capital, from credit. There’s been threats of jail, threats of fines. So the heroes on the ground are still wondering what else the world is going to expect from them.
There are heroes in this room. I believe we have in the room, I know we have, members of the governments of Acre, of Mato Grosso. … Members of Tocantins, Amazonas. … We have some other heroes of this story. … Tashka Yawanawá from Acre. … But there are lots of heroes.
And of course a lot of the civil society groups that are pushing this process around. … What are the key ingredients though, if we really were to think about a unified theory of sustainable, low-emission, rural development that’s equitable? What are the three main ingredients? And I would put forward that they are incentives both positive and negative—although there is a sheer, a huge global deficit today of positive incentives. We have a carrot crisis on our hands. And a positive benefit can be liberating a farmer from bureaucracy. Making it easier to access credit so it takes one month instead of eight.
We also need shared metrics. We have too many definitions of success. And every process—a typical Mato Grosso farmer has to deal with seven different definitions of success in dealing with deforestation. And that contributes to their frustration. And finally we need—once we have those shared metrics of success, we need a reliable monitoring platform so everyone can see how they’re doing. The buyers, the producers, the governments. And say, okay ,we’re doing well here. Be it deforestation, labor infractions, toxics, agri-toxin spills. Whatever the criterion is.
I will leave you with one vision from the other side of the planet. Let’s look out to 2020. Let’s imagine that Borneo—some of the things that are happening in Borneo today go to fruition. Governor Teras Narang, the head of Central Kalimantan, also the president of the Indonesia Dayak Council. His roadmap to low deforestation, productive, poverty alleviating development for his province has gone to scale. The partnerships he has with four districts today and palm oil companies. I was with him two months ago when he had 25 palm oil companies in the room basically saying, We have to do this together.
There's a challenge. It's very real. It's getting us the landscapes
Well, that model has gone to fruition. Dayak communities now, instead of producing 11 percent of palm oil, are producing 20 percent, which is their target for 2020. Investment is flowing in. Eastern and Western Kalimantan, Sabah, the entire province—the entire island—is moving towards this agenda in a race to the top. Because they see that it brings benefits and you can get re-elected on this agenda. Imagine that.
So we’ve got implementation of the customary rights decision of the constitutional court demarcating indigenous lands. All of these pieces together are coming together. And there are big market player leaders today, like Unilever, like Wilmar, like Cargill, are seeing the fruits of their own commitments come into play.
I would put forward as my closing comment that one of the richest places and spaces for collaboration and innovation—and this is the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force. All of these provinces and states that I mentioned, and five regional governments here in Peru, are members of this collaboration that started in 2008. August of last year, put out a challenge to the world—we’ll lower deforestation 80 percent if there’s adequate finance, if the market cares. And we’re going to give much of that revenue that comes in to the indigenous groups and communities. There we have it. There’s a challenge. It’s very real. It’s getting us the landscapes. We can do this. Thank you.