WWF and FOLU call for urgent action to align food systems, biodiversity and land use during 4th Assembly of the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA)

The Tropical Forest Alliance Annual Meeting 2019, co-hosted by the Government of Colombia and TFA Colombia Alliance, took place from 6-8 May in Bogotá Colombia, and focused on how to scale up and transform global and regional leadership and innovative business models geared at galvanizing tangible action on the forest and commodities agenda. Under the theme, “A Forest Positive Future: Accelerating the Decade of Delivery”, the 4th TFA Annual Meeting convened more than 150 high-level global and regional leaders from governments, business and civil society to accelerate efforts to reduce/eliminate commodity-driven deforestation.

In the framework of the Assembly, WWF and the Colombian Food and Land use Coalition (FOLU-Colombia) hosted a breakout session “Towards 2020: Transforming the economy through the alignment of food systems, biodiversity and land use» which provided an overview of the urgent need to transform food systems and putting nature at the center by promoting integrated and innovative actions linking land use, food systems and biodiversity and leveraging the 2020 political opportunity to raise the ambition on climate change and nature action agendas. Kavita Prakash-Mani, WWF Global Conservation Director, opened the session emphasizing the need to align food production and consumption with nature protection and climate action if we want to effectively halt and reverse the alarming rates of biodiversity loss by 2030, emphasized this week in the global IPBES biodiversity report.

According to the report we are depleting our planet resources and threatening the survival of millions of species. The average abundance of native species in most major land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20%, mostly since 1900. More than 40% of amphibian species, almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. At least 680 vertebrate species had been driven to extinction since the 16th century.

In this context, Prakash- Mani presented the New Deal for Nature and People as an opportunity to promote a new economy centered on nature, with a better use of resources and land use planning to safeguard forests, biodiversity and ecosystem services, aligned with the vision to reverse the loss of nature and protect and restore nature by 2030 for the benefit of people and the planet.

“We know that companies have signed up to deforestation free value chains by 2020, and 2020 is only about seven months away and we know we´re not close to halting deforestation; that doesn’t mean that it wasn´t the right goal or that we shouldn’t still aim for it. We have made progress but need to do more, building coalitions among all stakeholders from governments, companies, NGOs, local communities, indigenous peoples, media, to come together collectively where it matters,” said Prakash-Mani.

Taking into account that changes in the use of land and oceans is still the largest of the five direct drivers of loss of nature. Craig Hanson ,Vice President of Food, Forests, Water & Oceans at the World Resources Institute (WRI), presented the global challenges and a roadmap to achieve a new food and land use economy, emphasizing 5 pillars: 1) produce more on existing converted lands; 2) moderate demand by shifting diets; 3) reduce loss and waste; 4) protect and restore; and 5) reduce GHG emissions. ¨We need clear and specific targets, measure and based on measures, take action, said Hanson.¨

After the presentations, a panel chaired by Claudia Martinez, Director of E3 and coordinator of The New Food and Land Use Economy for Colombia, chaired the panel, pointing out the need to have more intrinsic links between nature and food systems, where both producers and consumers start making effective behavioral changes. The Panel started with Kavita Prakash, giving concrete examples of actions in the world that were making the link of nature and food systems. Craig Hanson emphasized the need to promote promote an action agenda with effective measures.

The panel had representatives from Colombia and Peru, presenting their challenges and opportunities from their work in country. Tatiana Escovar, Director of Social Planning of Rural Property and Productive Use of Land of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, that made a statement around …………..and Patricia Patrón, Adviser of the Ministry of Environment of Perú, who shared their visions of the context of Peru Climate change and increasing needs to involve territories and indigenous communities as they are the most affected ones.

David Nabarro, Director of the Food Systems Dialogue, closed the panel remarks with inspiring words that moved the audience. He first asked the question of whether percentages and numbers in terms of biodiversity loss will move the world, or rather demonstrate the urgency of the planet as our commitment should be “All or nothing”. It is around speaking of wellbeing connected with health and nature. He transmitted messages of hope and the importance of taking advantage of all spaces from here to 2020 to position nature protection with decision makers. We cannot focus on what can be done but on what must be done and we must value nature more tangibly in political, societal and economic terms, said Nabarro. Addressing government representatives, Nabarro claimed “Even though it might be tough, we are with you.”

Claudia Martinez, opened the floor to the audience, that involved inspiring comments and approaches. For example, the need to involve spirituality, from a deep movement of understanding mother nature. There were examples of practical actions from local governments and non-governmental organizations, and the urgency to close the gap between real farmers in rural areas and consumers, promoting a much deeper relation.

Mary Lou Higgins, Director WWF Colombia, prepared conclusions of what was an incredibly rich discussion: “We need to touch people´s hearts and create the sense of urgency as is clear from the figures and data. We cannot put it off until tomorrow. Although nature provides US$125 trillion of ecosystem services annually – water, food, fresh air, weather regulation, productive soil, and carbon sinks, we need to rethink the values of nature from more than an economic perspective, it is not just about money but about ensuring nature is valued in political and societal terms.”

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