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A Global Perspective on Preserving Our Forests

In Partnership with Bayer, Concordia Global Patron Member

May 13, 2021 | DIgital

9:00 – 9:45 AM EDT


Forests filter the air we breathe, mitigate climate change, and are home to 80% of our terrestrial world’s biodiversity. Historically, conversations on deforestation have focused mainly on the Amazon rainforest. However, today’s youth climate movement and advances in climate science and technology have brought to the forefront the intricate relationship between forests and the health of our environment. Deforestation is a global issue that requires global perspective, along with the immediate attention of our governments and industries, regardless of region. 

Our esteemed panelists provided an international perspective on the compounding issues surrounding deforestation and the role of innovation in addressing today’s challenges, from the pandemic and biodiversity loss to the depletion of major resources that fuel our everyday lives. With the need to preserve our planet’s ecosystems requiring actionable solutions, these expert speakers shared what’s needed to reshape the paradigm of our climate’s future.

Partnering Lesson

This discussion highlighted how critical inclusive partnership design is to a project’s success. To truly design a sustainable intervention, beneficiaries must be engaged from the onset and in a meaningful, decision making manner. In the context of combating deforestation, this includes reaching out to local communities, indigenous communities, and youth, and developing a shared understanding of the drivers of deforestation as well as a shared commitment to the proposed intervention.

In Case You Missed It...

  • The collaboration of the multi-stakeholder approach is critical to addressing the problems of deforestation. Matthias Berninger elaborated on this by listing the three important elements that he looks for in business strategies:

1) Are their business leaders rewarded for impacting sustainability? In other words, are there quantitative targets for how a leader should be paid? For Bayer, “20% of the long term incentives are linked to achieving non-financial targets, and are measured the same way that financial KPI’s are measured.”

2) What is needed from the R&D budgets to effectively create positive change? Bayer invests €5.5 billion every year in R&D. Matthias states that if the R&D budgets are not aligned with sustainability, momentous change can not be achieved.

3) How can certain commitments, and following through with those commitments, lead to a positive impact on deforestation? For example, how can the commitment to achieve global sustainability  also achieve carbon neutrality by mid of the century? These commitments cannot be successful if the other two elements aren’t also included in the process.

  • Irina Bokova highlighted the role of science, as well as innovation, and asked how we should collaborate between science, business, and political leaders? Matthias explained that in September of 2015, China achieved a record in importing grains. In one single month, they imported 4.1 million tons of grain. In January of this year, a new record was established when China imported 6 million tons of grain. This is a consequence of China fighting extreme poverty, but also a consequence of higher consumption. Innovation alone is not the solution – these innovations are possible, but not without societal support. We need strong forest protection laws, and the need to stimulate innovation. This innovation will lead to more money in farmer’s pockets, will produce the world market’s necessary demand, while simultaneously  protecting nature.
  • Leslie Weldon outlined the underlying drivers that must accompany any long-term solution:
    • The majority of the water Americans drink is produced by the healthy forests and estates protected under the National Forest Service. The National Forest Service has had a lot of success in collaboration. Rather than objectively deciding what is necessary to care for these lands, USDA provides the opportunity to hear directly from the American voices most affected, both today and in the future. This includes livelihoods, the future availability of water and the ability to support biodiversity. These collaborative opportunities provide success in implementing large scale projects, thus leading to the investments and research necessary to make a substantial difference over the long term.
    • Many non-profit organizations maintain relationships with under-represented communities that the Federal Government often lacks. These partnerships bring about a positive impact on deforestation, help maintain the forests within the U.S. and continue to grow the nation’s level of sustainability.
  • André Guimarães believes that we need to shift the paradigm in order to learn from past efforts within the Amazon. André re-emphasized Leslie’s words –  the need to engage the different sectors of society.
  • In order to move from conversation to action, we must understand that this is a complex problem that requires a complex solution. As a leader of a science-based organization, André believes the key to success is to communicate the risks and possible solutions to the general public. For example, 90% of the Brazil’s agriculture is non-irrigated – it depends on natural water cycles. Colombia, Kenya, Thailand, Indonesia, Bolivia, Cambodia, and more, also depend on natural cycles to produce GDP. We must be able to present these challenges to the public in a simpler way, so that there is a general understanding of the risks. 
  • Oluwaseun Adekugbe highlighted the important impact of global education on sustainable development. Oluwaseun spoke about her experience with the United Nations REDD Program, which gave her the opportunity to interact with indigenous communities. Through this experience, she learned these indigenous communities living near the forests depend on the forests’ resources for their livelihoods; however, they have been completely segregated from all forest management decisions. These communities are unfortunately left without any knowledge on available programs to promote awareness on the issues.
  • During President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate in April, many commitments were made to protect our forests. The U.S., Norwegian and UK governments established an initiative with businesses committed to the United Nations to race to zero on climate change. This money will be invested in communities to protect their livelihoods, and improve the conditions of their forests. These are the types of partnerships that we need; they are connecting communities with climate change, water conservation and nature conservation. Governments must follow-through with their commitments.