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Norway adopts world's first zero deforestation policy: What does that mean?

Norway announced a zero deforestation policy in its procurement of goods, two years after making a pledge with Germany and Britain to 'promote national commitments that encourage deforestation free supply chains.' 

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    A tract of Amazon jungle cleared by loggers and farmers in 2012 in Brazil. Norway has pledged to ban products that contribute to deforestation.
    Stian Bergeland/Rainforest Foundation Norway/Reuters
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Norway has announced a complete ban on deforestation, making it the first country to commit to a zero deforestation policy.

Products that contribute to deforestation will not be used in the country, EcoWatch reports. The pledge comes two years after the country issued a joint declaration with Germany and Britain at the UN Climate Summit committing to "promote national commitments that encourage deforestation free supply chains, including through public procurement policies to sustainably source commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber."

Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway said in a statement that it was a monumental move. Although companies had committed to cease the procurement of goods linked to deforestation, those commitments have not been matched by governments.

"This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest," he said. "It is highly positive that the Norwegian state is now following suit and making the same demands when it comes to public procurement."

A large number of goods, including palm oil, tropical timber, soy, and paper are linked to the destruction of the rainforest, according to Rainforest Foundation Norway.

Mr. Ranum said other countries should follow Norway’s leadership, especially Germany and the UK, as they made the same pledge at the UN Climate Summit in 2014.

The commitment was part of the Norwegian Parliament's Standing Committee on Energy and Environment recommendation titled Action Plan on Nature Diversity, which also requests the government exercise due care for the protection of nature in its investments through the government’s Government Pension Fund Global.  

Norway has long been an environmental leader, EcoWatch reports. The Norwegian government paid the government of Guyana a total of $250 million between 2011 and 2015 and is currently paying Liberia $150 million through 2020 to prevent deforestation. Liberia, which is home to 43 percent of Upper Guinean forest, agreed to place 30 percent or more of its forests under protection by 2020.

Norway’s most prominent investment in the environment was to Brazil, which has 60 percent of the Amazon forest. Norway paid Brazil $1 billion in 2015 for completing a 2008 agreement to prevent deforestation. This investment has had clear returns, as it helped save 33,000 square miles of rainforest and the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon decreased by more than 75 percent.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the partnership, calling it "one of the most impressive climate change mitigation actions" of the past decade.

"This is an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet," he said.

The rate of deforestation is half of what it was in the 1990s according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Forest Resources Assessment, as The Christian Science Monitor reported in October.

Peter Ellis, forest-carbon scientist with the Nature Conservancy, told the Monitor between 10 to 25 percent of the climate change problem could be addressed through forest conservation.

“They’re an important tool that nature has given us to be able to mitigate against climate change,” he said.

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