Norway has become the first country to commit to a zero deforestation policy.
The announcement comes two years after Norway issued a joint declaration with Germany and the United Kingdom stating that it would “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."
“This is an important victory in the fight to protect the rainforest. Over the last few years, a number of companies have committed to cease the procurement of goods that can be linked to destruction of the rainforest," Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway, said in a statement. "Until now, this has not been matched by similar commitments from governments. Thus, it is highly positive that the Norwegian state is now following suit and making the same demands when it comes to public procurements."
A wide range of items, including palm oil, tropical timber, soy and paper are linked to the destruction of the rain forest, according to Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Ranum encouraged other countries to follow Norway's example, particularly Germany and the U.K., following their joint pledge at the United Nations Climate Summit at New York City in 2014.
Norway's announcement is the latest in a series of impressive steps the Scandinavian country has taken to fight deforestation, says EcoWatch. The Norwegian government paid the South American country of Guyana $250 million between 2011 and 2015 to stop logging and protect its forests.
In 2015, Norway paid $1 billion to Brazil, which is home to 60 percent of the Amazon forest, for completing a 2008 agreement to prevent deforestation. The investment helped save more than 33,000 square miles of rain forest from clear-cutting; deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has decreased more than 75 percent over the last decade.
The partnership was lauded at the time by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who called it "one of the most impressive climate change mitigation actions of the past decades."
"This is an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet," he said.
In addition, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, has a policy on climate change that targets tropical deforestation as a priority issue. It has dropped a number of companies from its portfolio — including palm oil, pulp and paper, and coal companies — because of their involvement in forest destruction.
About 1.6 billion people rely on the world's forests for food, fresh water, clothing, traditional medicine and shelter, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Between 46,000 and 58,000 square miles of forest are lost each year, which is equal to about 48 football fields every minute.
An estimated 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are the result of deforestation. In addition, deforestation can increase soil erosion, disrupt water cycles and impact the livelihoods of the millions of people who depend on those forests for hunting and gathering, agriculture and forest products, says the WWF.