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CPG Firms Set Zero Net Deforestation Goal at COP16

On the first day of the international climate change negotiations in Mexico, some of the world's largest consumer goods companies threw their collective weight behind efforts to tackle deforestation and to phase out potent greenhouse gases used in refrigeration.

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), whose 400 members include heavy-hitters 3M, Chiquita, Del Monte, HP, Tetra Pak and Walmart, passed a resolution with two goals: achieving zero net deforestation by 2020, and eliminating hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants by 2015.

If both feats can be achieved, the results would be impressive. Some estimate that deforestation is responsible for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. And in a business-as-usual scenario, HFC emissions could contribute up to 19 percent of global emissions by 2050, according to CGF. COP16 logo

HFC refrigerants have already landed on the radar for several prominent companies. Coca-Cola famously committed to phasing it from new equipment by 2015. Unilever, PepsiCo, Walmart and others have also tested non-HFC equipment around the world. There is also the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's GreenChill program, which boasts dozens of grocery store partners focused on reducing refrigerant emissions.

Meanwhile, the concept of "zero net deforestation" made headlines earlier this year when British Columbia introduced legislation setting a 2015 goal for an equal number of trees to be planted to balance forest land that is cleared permanently. The World Wildlife Fund for Nature also committed to zero net deforestation by 2020.

"We believe that our industry has a responsibility to purchase these commodities in a way which encourages producers not to expand into forested areas," Sir Terry Leahy of Tesco and Paul Polman of Unilever said in a joint statement. "Our task is to develop specific action plans for the different challenges of sourcing commodities like soya, palm oil, beef, paper and board sustainably."

While both goals from CGF are encouraging, they aren't a slam dunk, especially since members haven't yet devised any action plans for meeting the zero net deforestation goal. And as Greenpeace pointed out, the HFC goal states that CGF members have until 2015 to "begin" phasing out the potent greenhouse gases in favor of other alternatives.

Still, it's a positive piece of news at the beginning of an event where expectations appear to be quite low -- a far cry from a year ago heading into the Copenhagen negotiations.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Amy Loves Yah.

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