Key findings:

  • There are no signs that the annual rate of forest loss is slowing.
  • Only 8% of 250 “powerbroker” corporations—and less than 1% of the 150 leading lenders and investors in agricultural companies—have polices in place to eliminate or reduce deforestation.
  • Deforestation accounts for about 10 percent of global man-made emissions through the razing and burning of trees. Because tropical forests are potent carbon sponges, stopping deforestation—and allowing damaged forests to recover—could deliver as much as 40 percent of the emissions cuts needed to keep global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

The New York Declaration on Forests was supposed to help halve forest loss by 2020, but an initial assessment published last week by the Amsterdam-based consulting company Climate Focus along with a group of non-governmental organizations said deforestation has not slowed in the countries that signed the pact. Very few of the world’s leading companies whose practices drive deforestation have changed their policies to begin to tackle the issue, according to a separate report published last week by the Global Canopy Programme.

The declaration was signed in September 2014 by 52 companies—including Unilever, Walmart and General Mills—as well as more than 30 countries and 100-plus subnational governments, indigenous groups and non-governmental organizations. They committed to 10 goals, meant to cut the world’s forest loss in half by 2020 and end it by 2030. The declaration was notable for its ambitious targets and rare collaboration among countries and corporations, and for tackling the root causes of deforestation, primarily corporate agriculture practices. The majority of tropical forest loss and degradation is driven by the production of only six commodities: palm oil, soy, beef, leather, timber, and pulp and paper.

Cutting the rate of deforestation in half, the goal of the New York declaration, would require $20 to $30 billion a year, significantly more than current pledges, which remain less than $10 billion a year, according to Boucher of the UCS.