Norway launches $400m fund to stop deforestation, boost farming


The Government of Norway has said it is setting up a new fund to kick-start investments in deforestation-free agriculture in countries that are working to reduce their forest and peat degradation. It will work in partnership with the Global Environment Facility, UN Environment Programme, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) and major food companies and environmental NGOs, and aims to protect over 5 million hectares of forests and peatlands by 2020, equivalent to the size of Costa Rica.

The fund will be launched with a commitment of up to $100 million from the Norwegian government, based on a capitalization goal of $400 million by 2020, to be drawn from other bilateral and multilateral donors as well as private sector partners. The capital will be used in part to help the productivity of small-scale farmers.

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation. Between 2000 and 2012, 2.3 million square kilometres of forest were cut down. To date, investments in increasing agricultural production tend to have favoured expanding into tropical forests rather than intensifying agricultural production on existing arable land.

The fund is expected to provide an incentive for tropical forest governments by driving investments in countries and jurisdictions that protect forests and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. It is an example of the agreements that are developing under the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a global public-private partnership to drive action towards deforestation-free supply chains, hosted at the World Economic Forum.

Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, announced the launch of the fund at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting held in Davos-Klosters. “The future of the planet depends on our common ability to both protect and restore forests at unprecedented scale, while simultaneously increasing agricultural production to meet growing global needs,” she said. “Through this fund, we will work with forest governments, the private sector and civil society to make this happen in innovative ways.”

The fund is expected to help forested countries meet their commitments under the UN Paris Climate Agreement and contribute to a number of Sustainable Development Goals such as: poverty reduction (1); zero hunger (2); decent work and economic growth (8); climate action (13); sustainable water management (15); and an end to land degradation and biodiversity loss (16).

“We applaud the fund as we are a strong believer in governments and companies working together to protect the environment while feeding the world,” said Everton Lucero, Secretary for Climate Change and Environmental Quality at the Ministry of the Environment, Brazil.

“As part of the Paris Climate Agreement our country has committed to 12 million hectares of forest restoration and 20 million hectares of sustainable intensification of agriculture. This fund will help us to develop scalable models to achieve that,” said Roberto Jaguaribe, President of Apex-Brasil (Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency).

“Eliminating deforestation from the supply chain of major global commodities is a goal whose time has come. Enhancing agriculture production can no longer take place at the expense of the global commons,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility.

Andrew Steer, President and Chief Executive Officer, World Resources Institute, said that most successful actions to protect forests are also good for economies: “By drawing upon the best private and public actors, and new understanding of business opportunities in tropical landscapes, the impact of this fund on climate, biodiversity and economic opportunity could be truly transformational.”

Erik Solheim, Executive Director, UN Environment Programme, said: “It’s extremely important that we join forces to protect forests and peatlands and therefore our climate. We’re delighted to have the fund in place and it’s especially important that we also have the private sector on board.”

Major members of the global consumer goods industry, such as Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Mars, Metro, Nestlé, and Unilever, have expressed their support, as has the Consumer Goods Forum and other industry associations. Unilever is the first corporate investor in the fund, investing $25 million over a five-year period.

“The fund is at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals and climate nexus. This unparalleled public-private partnership will leverage the commitment of Consumer Goods Forum companies to meet our shared goal to eliminate deforestation, while supporting enhanced livelihoods for farmers in our supply chain,” said Paul Polman, Chief Executive Officer, Unilever, and Co-Chair of the Sustainability Committee of the Consumer Good Forum.

The fund will be formally set up and incorporated by IDH as an independent legal entity later this year.

The 47th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting took place on 17-20 January in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership. More than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries will participate in over 400 sessions.