Many major agricultural commodities such as beef, soy, sugar and palm oil drive deforestation in tropical countries. There is a growing awareness that in order to reduce the pressure on forests from these commodities it is necessary to address both consumption and production. Many of the activities and lessons from the EU FLEGT Action Plan are relevant to the broader REDD+ context.
Voluntary approaches were instrumental in creating markets for legal timber in Europe, and several other countries and regions followed this lead. Voluntary approaches include:
- Private sector responsible sourcing programmes
- Public sector and government sustainable procurement policies
- Responsible investment approaches by the financial sector
Recently, some public and private initiatives are emerging to promote demand for sustainable agro-commodities. These include:
- The UK public procurement policy on palm oil
- Private sector commitments on sustainable palm oil in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK
- The Norwegian state pension fund's decision to withdraw investments from companies associated with unsustainable palm oil production
Legislation which has been used to address consumption of illegal timber includes the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the EU market.
These voluntary and regulatory examples from the FLEGT context provide very useful lessons for discussions within the broader REDD+ context on the advantages, and the very significant costs and challenges, of adopting a legislative approach to controlling consumption and ultimately reducing deforestation.
Another valuable lesson is that efforts should also be made on the supply side, to respond to changed consumption patterns. REDD+ processes directly interact with several land-use sectors in commodity producing countries and can provide an opportunity to decouple agro-commodity production from deforestation in those countries.