Press release | Oct. 19, 2020

Preserving climate-critical forests with the support of Arcadia

Global Witness is very pleased to announce a new grant of £1.5million from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. This three-year grant (2020–2023) will support our Forests Campaign, which aims to preserve the worlds’ most climate-critical tropical forests by tackling the finance that is bankrolling deforestation.

The rampant destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests is one of the most critical environmental crises of our time, with devastating consequences for forest communities, biodiversity and the global climate. Global Witness’s Forest Team carries out major investigations into deforestation and uses them to campaign for policy change. In 2020 Global Witness published investigations exposing threats to Republic of Congo’s peatland forests from a giant oil project, the logging of rainforests in Papua New Guinea for what appears to be a bogus rubber project, and the financing of a company that clear-felled a biodiversity hotspot in Brazil by a leading London hedge fund

“Tropical rainforests are the earth’s frontline defence against climate breakdown,” said Ed Davey, Head of Forests Investigations at Global Witness. “Our Forests Campaign is committed to protecting these vital carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots and the people that depend on and defend them by exposing and combating the money pipeline driving their destruction,” Davey added.

Global deforestation is occurring at alarming rates, with over 300m hectares of tree cover destroyed between 2001 and 2015. If deforestation were a country, it would rank third in CO2 emissions, after China and the US. 

The destruction of rainforests frequently goes hand in hand with human rights abuses against those who rely on, and often seek to protect, forests. Marginalised and oppressed peoples, such as forest and indigenous communities are threatened, attacked and lose their livelihoods to big operations that wipe out swathes of rainforest.  

A significant driver of deforestation is the production of agricultural commodities such as beef, palm oil, rubber and soy that often end up in our supermarkets, which account for around a third of all deforestation-related emissions. Our ground-breaking investigation in 2019, Money to Burn, revealed how over 300 banks and investors, including major household names, financed harmful agribusinesses behind the destruction of the world’s climate-critical tropical forests to the tune of US$44bn between 2013 and 2019. 

“The role of global private finance in driving deforestation is a not just a case of a few bad apple investors, but instead a wider systemic problem that the financial sector itself is unable or unwilling to fix,” said Jo Blackman, Head of Forests Policy and Advocacy at Global Witness. “That is why Global Witness is campaigning for governments to introduce legislation to curb the financing of deforestation and related human rights abuses.”

The new grant from Arcadia will support Global Witness’ efforts to advocate for governments to introduce rules requiring businesses, including finance, to be required to undertake rigorous due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and report on the risks of  deforestation and related human rights abuses in their operations, subsidiaries and value chains.

“If governments are serious about addressing climate change, they must take action to keep climate-critical forests standing and safeguarding forest communities, by applying mandatory due diligence along all supply chains, including for investors and financiers,” said Blackman. “These measures will help ensure that companies and financial institutions can no longer continue to profit from deforestation with impunity, whilst rewarding businesses who prioritise environmental and human rights concerns,” Blackman concluded. 

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About Arcadia:

Arcadia is a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. It supports charities and scholarly institutions that preserve cultural heritage and the environment. Arcadia also supports projects that promote open access and all of its awards are granted on the condition that any materials produced are made available for free online. Since 2002, Arcadia has awarded more than $777 million to projects around the world.’

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