Dr Jason Clay, WWF
Dr. Jason Clay, Senior Vice President Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is a James Beard Foundation Award Winner for his efforts to study and address the global social, environmental, and economic impact of a variety of commodities, and his cross-sector work to improve the sustainability and supply chain management of these commodities. Our interview is below.
Gratitude Gourmet: Congratulations on your James Beard Award! Please tell me your thoughts on the James Beard Foundation (JBF) honor you received.
Dr. Jason Clay: I've been involved in a lifetime of work on sustainable development and more sustainable supplies of food which started in the 80's with how groups in the rainforest can develop products instead of cutting trees down, such as rainforest products with Ben and Jerry's. Palm oil in Indonesia and soy are recent projects.
Gratitude Gourmet: Please tell me about your cross-sector work to improve the sustainability and supply chain management of these commodities such as palm oil and soy.
Dr. Jason Clay: Agriculture uses 35% of the planet’s land. The production of food and fiber is also the primary driver of deforestation globally and greenhouse gas emissions. Yet by 2050, the world will need to double food production to meet anticipated needs due to increases in population, income and consumption. As agricultural production increases, we must find ways to minimize its impact on biodiversity. In short, we need to freeze the footprint of producing food and fiber.
What should we care about the most? It's not just about being right but about building consensus of what needs to be done. It's important to get all the stakeholders - producers, brands, retailers, NGOs - these are the things that are most significant. Having focus lets you accomplish something. We don't want to encourage farmers to adopt one practice over another. What we're interested in is the result that is achievable on the ground - type of land farmers have/labor etc - working with them to have a measurable improvement in their performance. When farmers become more efficient in the most competititve industries, they will make a 4-6% net improvement in income, including managing how they use pesticides which improves net profit.
We work with companies 1:1 on water availability and climate change - we only have 1 planet - we're going to double food consumption by 2050 per capita. We have worked with a group called the Consumer Goods Forum, and by 2020 they have the goal of not buying products from deforested areas - we're getting more companies to sign up for the same commitment. We need to change how we think about pollution - we need companies to be colluding about sustainability - we do need to manage this.
Global estimates for degraded lands (including abandoned, severely degraded and underproductive) range from 1.5 to 2 billion hectares, larger than the entire current agricultural estate. This land is marginal for biodiversity and for ecosystem services, yet
much of this land could be used to produce commodities such as palm oil, soy, or pulp wood. By shifting agricultural expansion from high-carbon lands to degraded, low-carbon lands, especially those that have been used previously for agriculture. we achieve agricultural targets while maintaining biodiversity as well.
Shifting all agricultural expansion to degraded lands is too big a task to tackle all at once. Reasonable goals would be 50 M ha by 2020, 100 M ha by 2030 and 250 M ha by 2040. Moreover, we are not starting with a clean slate. Brazil, China, Ethiopia, South Africa and the US have each rehabilitated areas of at least a million hectares, often far more. Brazil for example has already rehabilitated 10 M ha and has a 2020 target of additional 25 M ha.
In fact, WWF has documented efforts to rehabilitate degraded land in Brazil and Borneo. In each case, the studies showed that rehabilitating degraded lands is financially viable and in fact provides a higher rate of return than clearing forests. As important, the works suggest that there is sufficient degraded land in both areas to double production of soy and palm oil in the respective countries without any additional deforestation.
Strategy: The proposed work on degraded lands will focus on priority areas and commodities for WWF and our corporate partners and donors. The initial focus includes soy in Brazil, pulp and paper and palm oil in Indonesia, and coffee, cocoa, palm oil, and rubber in Central and West Africa.
My Guardian blog has more information about my work http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/jason-clay
After our interview, Dr Jason Clay shared more information about World Wildlife Fund's continued expansion with its innovative program seeking to link investments in climate change mitigation with the sustainable production of agricultural commodities via the Carbon and Commodities program because the production of food and fiber is one of the largest sources of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
"In 2009, the Conference to the Parties (COP15) of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) established a policy framework known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and created a potentially potent mechanism for supporting forest conservation. It is now widely recognized that for REDD+ to succeed, the drivers of deforestation must be reduced and this requires for the planet’s existing agricultural production models to become more efficient, more Carbon and Sustainability productive, and more sustainable.
The objective of the Carbon and Commodities program is to assist retailers and manufacturers who have made voluntary commitments to reduce the carbon footprints of their brands to engage the producers of agricultural commodities that generate the largest component of those emissions. The goal is to create a framework which increases revenues for farmers that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or increase carbon stocks on production landscapes."
Related James Beard Foundation Leadership Award Articles:
Interview with Tensie Whelan, President Rainforest Alliance, James Beard Foundation Leadership Award Winner
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