Report on Forest Governance Sets Out China Pathway to Better Tackle Global Deforestation

The World Economic Forum – in collaboration with China-UK Collaboration on International Forest Investment and Trade, the World Wide Fund for Nature China and The Nature Conservancy – has launched a new report that sets out how China can do more to address global commodity-driven deforestation.

The report, China’s Role in Promoting Global Forest Governance and Combating Deforestation, provides insights into the many ways China can step up on global leadership in combating commodity-driven deforestation. Given that soft-commodity value chains such as soy, beef, palm oil and forest products cause at least 40% of global deforestation and China is a major importer and consumer, the country has a critical role to play in addressing deforestation.

Such action is in China’s own interest, strengthening the resilience of supply chains, boosting its food security, and is also aligned with its stated ecological civilization goal and pledge to promote the greening of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The report points to the many domestic advances from bilateral and multilateral cooperation and the development of market mechanisms, such as in promoting timber legality, forest certification, sustainable overseas forest management, greening of supply chains and legislation. These experiences can be used to inform China’s promotion of other deforestation-free commodities in the future to help tackle the global challenge.

The report also challenges some of the traditionally held myths among experts and professional networks in China, such as:

  • Given the soaring trade figures – that both import and export of forest product increased more than sixfold from 1998 to 2018 – there is no evidence that fear of legislation, standardization and supervision creates a ‘green trade barrier’, which has previously been put forward as a concern.
  • ‘Non-interference’ – often cited as a concern by some stakeholders – is not conflicting with China’s overall national strategic diplomacy, rather it is contributing to delivering China’s international commitment and responsibilities on forest and land use, climate and biodiversity targets.
  • The private sector in China has an important role to play as the driving force of China’s forest governance progress which is not always a common accepted view in the country.

“International cooperation must be strengthened to achieve deforestation-free supply chains,” said Gim Huay Neo, Managing Director, Centre for Nature and Climate, World Economic Forum. “We need more joint public-private dialogues and collaborative action across bilateral and multilateral platforms. This report highlights learnings and insights for all stakeholders to work together and co-create solutions.”

The report strongly advocates for the need to strengthen global cooperation to harvest collective action. Zhu Chunquan, Head, China Nature Initiatives, World Economic Forum, said: “Collective action is indispensable, both at home and overseas. In China, the Forum is working with the Chinese government on its high-level integrated national strategy to regulate soft commodity green value chains. This requires both an inter-ministerial and a multistakeholder cooperation mechanism that includes the private sector, civil society, think tanks and individuals. It also requires associated synergies with China’s peak emission, carbon neutrality and global biodiversity framework target.”

China’s Role in Promoting Global Forest Governance and Combating Deforestation has support from the China-UK Collaboration on International Forest Investment and Trade, World Wide Fund for Nature China, The Nature Conservancy, Forest Trends, the Research Institute of Forestry Policy and Information at the Chinese Academy of Forestry, the Forest Stewardship Council, and Beijing Zhonglin Union Forestry Planning and Design Institute. It has been worked on since January 2020, with five rounds of physical, hybrid and virtual consultations from more than 70 experts. The report draws on collective insight from the China’s forest experts over the past 20 years.