Since starting our work on palm oil, UCS has taken a position that a company’s zero deforestation commitment needs to cover all of its operations, not just the products it sells or manufactures in the US. US consumers holding a company accountable for its global operations is not a new concept. The successful boycott of Nestlé in the US and Europe, which started in the late 1970’s, was the result of practices by that company in the developing world. Consumers not only want to buy products that don’t harm the planet but also want to buy products from companies they trust. Read More
September 24th, 2015
September 22nd, 2015
In the last few years, there has been heartening news, based on new scientific data, about progress in reducing global deforestation. The IPCC, in its Fifth Assessment Report in 2014, reviewed all the previously published evidence and concluded that deforestation and the emissions of global warming pollution that it produces had dropped in recent years. The Global Carbon Project, an annual review of the planet’s carbon cycle and its implications for climate change, found the same trend in its 2014 assessment. Read More
August 11th, 2015
Imagine you hear that a group of businesses has hired some of the best minds in the world to invent a new thing called a “wheel.”
“Strange,” you say, “don’t we already have wheels?” In fact, aren’t most businesses, consumer groups, and customers pretty firmly in support of these current “wheels?” Read More
August 6th, 2015
Soon after I moved from academia into the NGO world in 2007, to work on ending tropical deforestation, I was warned about the fierce argument about whether carbon markets should have any connection with forests and reducing deforestation. Colleagues told me: this is a divisive subject and has been a constant source of tension within the NGO community and beyond. It nearly sank the Kyoto Protocol and led to the breakdown of the UN climate negotiations in The Hague in 2000. Getting involved in it is a sure-fire way to lose friends and irritate people. Avoid it as much as you can.
June 8th, 2015
In early April I wrote a blog post on the U.S. INDC (“Intended Nationally Determined Contribution”) which was submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I focused on how it treated the land sector (agriculture and forests). In mid-April this analysis, along with similar consideration of the INDCs of Mexico and the European Union, was written up in a White Paper, and a few days ago we presented the results of this White Paper at a UNFCCC side event in Bonn.
Later in April, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Senior Presidential Advisor Brian Deese announced the Department of Agriculture’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry. In this blog post I’ll describe those building blocks, as well as the elements of the President’s Climate Action Plan (released in June 2013) that relate to the land sector.
February 26th, 2015
For many years, small farmers in developing countries have been blamed for deforestation because of the way that they make breakfast. While in developed countries nearly everyone cooks with fossil fuels, or with electricity generated by fossil fuels or hydroelectricity, in developing countries firewood still predominates, especially among the poorest people in rural areas. But is this really an important driver of deforestation—and thus a major contributor to global warming? A new study—the most in-depth and comprehensive look at the subject yet—says no.
December 10th, 2014
You hear the phrase “we’re number one!” from Americans fairly often, usually in relation to sports or politics. Now new research from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that there’s another domain where it applies. It’s not as an assertion of superiority, and probably never will lead to a chant at the Olympics, the World Cup or even the UN climate negotiations. Rather, it’s in terms of our potential to use our land sector – that is, agriculture and forests – to reduce our global warming pollution and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.
December 4th, 2014
December 1st, 2014
The new annual data on Amazon deforestation in Brazil has just come out, and it’s good news. For the latest year—August 2013 through July 2014—the annual total was 4,848 square kilometers. That’s 18 percent less than in the previous year, and the second-lowest figure ever. Read More
November 14th, 2014
Hold on to your hats because this coming Sunday is a day for parties. The Internet tells me that three different holidays fall on Sunday, November 16. First, it’s National Button Day which makes sense because who doesn’t love buttons? It’s also Have a Party with Your Bear Day. I’m thinking the best way to rejoice might be to listen to a classic childhood song. And lastly, it’s National Fast Food Day. Read More