THE BLOG
01/24/2015 01:29 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2015

Momentum Remains High for Forests' Role in Sustainable Development and Tackling Climate Change

This week at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, the crucial role of forests in tackling climate change is on the agenda.

I will give the opening speech at the session on "Reducing Tropical Deforestation Related to Key Agricultural Commodities". Invited panelists include President Humala of Peru; Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France; CEOs Marc Bolland of Marks and Spencer and David M. MacLennan of Cargill; and Jeremy Goon, Chief Sustainability Officer of Wilmar, and other prominent leaders.

Conserving the world's forests is critical to climate change mitigation. Forests absorb carbon dioxide and provide a range of other services. When cleared or degraded, however, they become a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Over thirteen million hectares of forests are still being cleared each year. That's an area around three times the area of Switzerland. This destruction is contributing up to twenty per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and threatens our common future.

With a global climate agreement scheduled to be finalized at the Paris Climate Conference at the end of the year, keeping up the momentum on forest conservation is essential.

We need to maintain and build upon the progress made last year, including at the UN Climate Summit in New York hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September, in the COP 20 "Lima Call to Action", and through the deforestation-free supply chain commitments made by many corporations.

I was very proud to be involved in the Climate Summit's forests action area, which UNDP facilitated and which saw the launch of the New York Declaration on Forests. This process has forged an unprecedented partnership of governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and indigenous peoples pledging to halve forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030.

Addressing deforestation promises multiple wins -- for the climate, for inclusive development and growth, and for smallholder famers and indigenous peoples -- but only if we all act together now.

Last year, participants at the Davos session on forests focused on advancing deforestation-free supply chains. It's no coincidence that 2014 then saw the proportion of the global palm oil trade covered by 'deforestation-free' commitments grow to over ninety cent -- a huge accomplishment.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, and Abdon Nababan, Secretary-General, Indigenous Peoples' Alliance of Indonesia (AMAN) are among those attending the WEF this week. I hope discussion will focus on how 'deforestation-free' commitments might be expanded to cover more agricultural commodities and new companies, and examine how to ensure benefit for smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples from the implementation of deforestation-free supply chain commitments.

I hope that the private sector will build and expand on the significant commitments already made to achieve these supply chains. Governments and the international community must also commit to playing their various roles, including by development partners committing to deliver adequate, sustainable, and predictable financing for climate change and low carbon development.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum's Annual Meeting 2015 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 21-24). Read all the posts in the series here.