Norway’s efforts to stop deforestation

Over the past 10 years, Norway has become an important country in the work to support forest protection and the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited the indigenous community of Monilla Amena during Solberg's state visit to Colombia in April 2018. The two heads of state also signed an extension of the climate and forest partnership beyond 2020.

A key initiative is the Norwegian government’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) which was created in 2007 when then Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg announced at  the UNFCCC in Bali that up to 3 billion NOK would be allocated to reduce deforestation on an annual basis.

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Norway has since then signed several bilateral agreements with governments of forested countries such as Brazil, Peru and Indonesia, where Norway commits to pay countries for results related to reduced deforestation.

The commitment to forest protection supports key objectives in several international agreements, and in particular the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris climate agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Through the SDGs, the world agreed to stop deforestation by 2020.

In addition to supporting initiatives in rainforest countries, the government of Norway has also decided on several measures to reduce its domestic contribution to rainforest destruction. Here are the key decisions related to this, including  their level of implementation.

2016: Norway commits to zero-deforestation in public procurement

In a groundbreaking move, in May 2016 the Norwegian parliament pledged to ensure deforestation-free supply chains through the government’s public procurement policy. The pledge was made in the Recommendation of the Norwegian parliament’s Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment regarding Norway’s national biodiversity action plan.

The action plan is a follow-up of Norway’s obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity. In its Recommendation the Committee requested, among other things, that the government “impose requirements to ensure that public procurements do not contribute to deforestation of the rainforest”. See here for more information.

Level of implementation: It falls upon the government to elaborate further details on the actual requirements as a follow-up of the decision from the parliament. It is expected that a White Paper on public procurement will be launched in Autumn 2018, but whether and how the White Paper will address the 2016 recommendation on deforestation is unknown.

2017: Norway has excluded palm oil from biofuels in public procurement

There has been an ongoing public debate on the environmental impact of the use of biofuels based on palm oil and by-products of palm oil in Norway.

Rainforest Foundation Norway has been an active participant in this debate, and has proposed a series of measures to the government and the fuel retail industry aimed at phasing out such biofuels from the Norwegian market. The brief reasoning behind this position, is that as long as the palm oil industry continues to drive deforestation in South-East Asia and elsewhere, fuels based on palm oil have even higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels (due to indirect land-use change effects). 

Two key reports commissioned by Rainforest Foundation Norway to the scientist Dr. Chris Malins on this topic show these conclusions For Peat’s Sake and Driving Deforestation.

In June 2017, the Norwegian parliament considered a number of proposals to limit the use of palm oil in biodiesel, and adopted a binding resolution requesting that the government ban the public procurement of biofuel based on palm oil and by-products of palm oil. The resolution is explained here. This is the first time that a country will ban all use of palm oil biofuel by public entities.

It is important to note that the Norwegian parliament has voted to impose on the government to exclude palm oil from biofuels in public procurement. It does not relate to the use of palm oil in food, cosmetics, cleaning products or even to the use of palm oil in biofuels by the private sector.

Level of implementation: The parliamentary resolution of June 2017 is yet to be implemented. The government has expressed concerns that a regulation banning the use of palm oil biofuel by public entities could be at risk of being in conflict with Norway’s obligations under the European Economic Agreement and international trade agreements. It has therefore decided to carry out a review on whether requirements that all public procurements shall be free from palm oil could be regarded as a trade restriction that impinges on the EEA and international trade rules. However, the use of palm oil-based biofuel is a concern to the Norwegian government, as increased demand for palm oil leads to more deforestation and loss of peatlands.

2012-17: Norway's Government Pension Fund takes action against deforestation

In 2012, Norges Bank Investment Management (hereafter NBIM), the asset management unit of the Norway’s central bank that manages Norway’s Government Pension Fund (the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world), included emissions from tropical deforestation in its Climate Change policy.

Also called the “Expectations document on climate change”, in 2015 the document‘s provisions on deforestation were significantly strengthened. This document sets out expectations to all companies in its portfolio to reduce their contribution to climate change and rainforest destruction. Crucially, the policy states that companies engaged in activities with a direct or indirect impact on tropical forests should have a strategy for reducing deforestation that results from their own activities or from their supply chains.

Between 2012 and 2015 NBIM divested 30 palm oil companies, mainly because their deforestation policies fell short.

What Rainforest Foundation Norway does

Since 1989 Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) has worked as a non-governmental organisation to protect tropical rainforests and secure the rights of forest-dependent peoples. RFN follows a rights-based approach to rainforest protection which is described here.

Whereas NICFI is part of Norway's Ministry of Climate and Environment, RFN is an independent organisation which is not linked to the government. RFN, however, pushes the government and criticises it, such as when we published Beauty and the Beast, showing that Norway was investing 27 times more in destroying the rainforest than in saving it, or on the climate impacts of palm oil-based biofuels in the report For Peat’s Sake.