Norway is the first country to adopt a ban on deforestation, a policy that will likely have global effects. The Norwegian parliament recently committed to a deforestation-free supply chain of goods coming into the country. Norway is not, however, new to putting large sums of money to stop deforestation in Brazil, Liberia, and Indonesia.
The zero deforestation commitment was put forward by the Standing Committee on Energy and Environment as part of the Norwegian government’s Action Plan on Nature Diversity. This commitment precludes deforestation in public procurement. In other words, the Norwegian will not award any of its government contracts to companies that take part in deforestation.
Crops typically associated with large-scale rain-forest destruction are soy, timber, palm oil, and beef. The Norwegian government will now require sustainable policy and practice in producing the aforementioned products if they are to be procured by the government.
The basis of the forest protection commitment comes from the UN Climate Summit in New York in 2014. During the Climate Summit, Norway, Germany, and the UK all made a joint statement that they 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.” Thus far, Norway is the only country to back the statement with policy. A study last year found that the above commodities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papa New Guinea, were responsible for 40% of total tropical deforestation and a similar 44% carbon emission between 2000 and 2011.
In addition to the deforestation language in the Action Plan on Natural Diversity, there are also recommendations to incorporate biodiversity as a factor in determining investments for Norway’s 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 currently considers climate change when determining investment strategies, but has not to this point considered biodiversity.
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Norway’s not new to putting money toward limiting deforestation. In 2008, the country gave Brazil $1 billion in an effort to stop or significantly slow deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest. Brazil in 2015 had reduced deforestation rates by an amazing 75%, with it saving 33,000 square miles of ancient primary rainforest. It is the equivalent in carbon dioxide emission savings as taking all U.S. cars off the road for a year.
The reason behind this is because trees take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and bind the CO2 into the tree’s mass. Limiting deforestation allows the forests to do one of its fundamental jobs in our ecosystem in reducing CO2 concentrations. In addition, deforestation often increases the rate of burning trees, a release of carbon dioxide.
Trevor Nace is a geologist, Forbes contributor, and adventurer. Follow him on Twitter @trevornace