State to demand deforestation guarantees on goods and services

California’s lawmakers are to decide on a new bill which would see the state demand evidence that a range of goods and services are not contributing to the world’s deforestation.

Assembly member Ash Kalra and bill co-sponsors, Friends of the Earth, Peace 4 Animals, and Social Compassion in Legislation, have reintroduced Assembly Bill (AB) 1979, the California Deforestation-Free Procurement Act.

“AB 1979 will expand California’s leadership on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, respecting Indigenous rights, and responding to the environmental emergency that is tropical deforestation,” said Kalra. “I remain committed to enacting a policy that ensures our state purchases and contracts do not inadvertently contribute to this global crisis and in doing so we can encourage more transparency and sustainable practices throughout global markets.”

Campaigners who back the bill said it comes at a time when the world’s forests are in crisis. Tropical forests cover roughly seven percent of the Earth’s surface but harbour close to half of all species on Earth. An estimated 18 million acres of forest—an area one-fifth the size of California—is lost every year, largely due to the expansion of agribusiness plantations. Tropical deforestation and related land-use changes are responsible for nearly a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions and are a major contributor to the global biodiversity crisis.

If passed, all California state contracts involving commodities that put tropical forests at risk, such as palm oil, soy, cattle, rubber, paper/pulp and timber, would require contractors to maintain a “forest policy” and provide evidence that their operations in sensitive tropical regions are not linked to forest destruction and degradation or abuses of indigenous peoples’ rights. A version of the bill introduced in 2021 passed the Legislature with bi-partisan support but was vetoed by state Governor Gavin Newsom.

“The climate emergency is being driven by our addiction to animal agriculture and fossil fuels. While it is imperative that we replace our combustible engines with electric and put solar on our houses, those actions alone will not solve this crisis,” said Judie Mancuso, CEO and Founder of Social Compassion in Legislation. “We must stop cutting down the lungs of our earth, tropical forests, in the drive for cheaper and cheaper commodities if we have a chance to stop not only climate change, but also the planet’s 6th mass extinction.”

“At the recent UN climate summit, the world’s governments pledged to finance forest protection, in just the latest demonstration of the scale and urgency of the problem. But very few governments have proven willing to curb the destructive consumption patterns that are the primary cause of the global deforestation crisis. California’s Deforestation-Free Procurement Act is a visionary but pragmatic approach to stemming the crisis at the root, and it needs all of our support,” added Jeff Conant, Senior International Forests Program Manager at Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Earth added environmental advocates and industry leaders alike agree that such policies are the best way to prevent ongoing forest destruction. Hundreds of consumer brands, commodity traders, and national and subnational governments have shown support for ending deforestation and primary forest degradation. Many have chosen to back their support with policies that commit them to zero deforestation in their supply chains. A number of nation-states, notably Norway and France, have also adopted “deforestation-free” procurement approaches.

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