Norway spearheads $400m ‘deforestation-free’ fund

Unilever is the first corporate investor in the fund, committing $25m over a five-year period.

Norway is leading the launch of a $400 million fund that will make deforestation-free agricultural investments by 2020, Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced this week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters.

The Norwegian government has made a commitment of up to $100 million, while it intends to draw the full $400 million capitalization goal from donors and private sector partners, which could lead to $1.6 billion in agri investments to protect over 5 million hectares of forests and peatlands under the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 public-private partnership.

Global consumer goods companies Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Mars, Metro and Nestlé have expressed support for the fund, while Unilever is the first corporate investor in the fund, committing $25 million over a five-year period.

The capital, to be used in part to help the productivity of small-scale farmers, will make investments in deforestation-free agriculture in countries that are working to reduce their forest and peat degradation under commitments set forth in the UN Paris Climate Agreement.

Under the agreement, for example, Brazil 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 Brazilian trade agency Apex-Brasil.

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation, accounting for 2.3 million sq kilometers of forest cut down between 2000 and 2012.

“To date, investments in increasing agricultural production tend to have favored [expansion] into tropical forests rather than intensifying agricultural production on existing arable land,” according to a statement from the World Economic Forum. “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.”

Norway will work in partnership with the Global Environment Facility, UN Environment Programme, the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), major food companies, environmental NGOs, local governments and the private sector.