BusinessDay

Nigeria, 22 others endorse COP26 Forest, FACT dialogue to address deforestation

The COP26 Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue has taken a significant step in bringing together countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and Latin America to commit to protecting the world’s forests and natural habitats from destruction.

Twenty-three countries – including Nigeria, endorsed a joint statement committing them to work together to protect the world’s precious forests while also promoting sustainable trade and supply chains of agricultural commodities.

Launched in February 2020, the FACT Dialogue brings key countries, which buy and produce products such as beef, soy and palm oil together to agree how these can be traded more sustainably.

The landmark statement is the result of collaborative action on an issue that is complex but also critical to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and limiting a global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

According to COP26 President- Designate, Alok Sharma, to have brought so many countries together, both producers and consumers, and to plan a way forward on sustainable trade is a fantastic start.

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“I am confident that this is just the beginning as we work to protect trade and development, and our biodiversity-rich forests, in equal measure,” Sharma said.

International trade in agricultural commodities like palm oil, soy and beef, is worth over $80billion per year. Globally, 1.6 billion people, mostly from developing countries, depend on forests for their livelihoods, according to data from the UK government.

Nigeria is considered by analysts to be a producer and consumer of forest risk agricultural commodities. Domestically it produces cocoa and palm oil but it also imports palm oil from Southeast Asia.

Forests are the largest natural carbon sink and a vital harbour of biodiversity but they are disappearing at an alarming rate. Nigeria has one of the highest deforestation rates globally, it loses approximately 350,000 – 400,000 hectares per year.

Logging, agriculture and collection of fuelwood are the leading causes of forest loss in Nigeria.

Through programmes such as Investments in Forests and Sustainable Land-use (IFSLU), the UK Government is supporting a shift to sustainable supply chains for agricultural commodities associated with deforestation, including palm oil and cocoa, and creating new investment opportunities in sustainable land use through public-private partnerships.

IFSLU has worked with Edo State – one of the major forest states in Nigeria, and a leading palm oil state. Edo State Government has committed to responsible oil palm production, becoming a member of the Uk-funded Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 ( TFA 2020) Africa Palm Oil Initiative (APOI) in May 2018 and the Uk-led Just Rural Transition in September 2019.

The UK Government said it is keen on intensifying partnership with Nigeria to ensure an inclusive vision and effective action for sustainable agriculture, forests and land use economy, as they are the areas with the potential to address major barriers to development around poverty, food and nutrition insecurity, unemployment, environmental degradation and instability.

“Nature, including protecting forests while promoting development and trade, remains one of our main ambitions for COP26 and we will use our COP Presidency to bring forest- risk commodity consumer countries, producer countries, and companies together to meet this challenge and make the most of a market transition to sustainable commodity trade,” the UK government said in a document seen by Businessday.

Global collaboration and an all-society approach, involving everyone from political leaders to businesses through to individual consumers, is needed to protect the planet’s biodiversity and establish a sustainable future, industry analysts said.

“The FACT Dialogue has much work ahead to deliver on its objectives as we move towards COP26. But the publication of today’s joint statement marks a highly important first step in laying the foundation for our work,” Sharma said.

According to British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, the UK is working with the Nigerian Federal Government, the private sector and with local communities across the country to promote investment in climate-smart practices and business models that will help reduce emissions, increasing productivity and build climate resilience.

“Nigeria’s active engagement in the COP26 FACT Dialogue and their endorsement of the joint statement is very welcome. We look forward to more collaborations like this as we continue to work together towards a common goal of sustainably producing agricultural commodities,” she said.

A statement from the British High Commission outlines a set of collaborative principles as well as areas of common purpose and action and they include trade and market development, smallholder support, transparency and traceability, research, development, and innovation.

The statement also highlighted international commitments and obligations to protect forests such as the Sustainable Development Goals (including Goal 15), the Paris Agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and agreements under the World Trade Organisation.

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