SOURCE: Science

DATE: September 13, 2018

SNIP: A new analysis of global forest loss—the first to examine not only where forests are disappearing, but also why—reveals just how much industrial agriculture is contributing to the loss. The answer: some 5 million hectares—the area of Costa Rica—every year. And despite years of pledges by companies to help reduce deforestation, the amount of forest cleared to plant oil palm and other booming crops remained steady between 2001 and 2015.

The finding is “a really big deal,” says tropical ecologist Daniel Nepstad, director of the Earth Innovation Institute, an environmental nonprofit in San Francisco, California, because it suggests that corporate commitments alone are not going to adequately protect forests from expanding agriculture.

Nepstad says that despite the success of corporate commitments slowing deforestation in the Amazon, the larger picture is disheartening. Many companies have pledged to support “zero-deforestation” by not purchasing palm oil or other major commodities from plantations or farms that were recently cleared of forest. But out of 473 such pledges the Earth Innovation Institute recently analyzed, just 155 actually set targets of zero deforestation from their supply chains by 2020. Only 49 companies have reported making good progress.