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Paul Polman calls for global deforestation moratorium

Unilever takes the stage at world climate summit in Copenhagen

Climate change summit speech

Paul Polman has urged governments to support a moratorium on tropical rainforest deforestation.

In a speech to the World Business Summit in Copenhagen on Monday 25th May, Unilever's CEO described the move as "a crucial measure to tackle climate change".

At the gathering of world-leading politicians and business leaders, Paul highlighted that destruction of the world's rainforests contributes to about 20% of greenhouse gases - more than the entire transport sector. He was later interviewed about his speech by the international broadcaster, CNBC.

Co-operation on sustainable palm oil

One of the drivers of deforestation in South East Asia, particularly in Indonesia, is the palm oil industry. As one of the world's biggest users of palm oil, Unilever helped to form the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which it currently chairs.

But at the weekend's climate summit, Paul stated that greater achievements can be made with closer co-operation: "We believe we are at a point where, if government and industry work effectively together to address the problem of deforestation, we can make real progress."

In his speech, Paul said that the consumer goods industry must exert pressure on growers, through the RSPO, and through buying decisions and commitments to purchasing certified sustainable palm oil. In November 2008, Unilever purchased palm oil from the first-ever batch to be officially certified as 'sustainable'.

He went on to appeal to Western and South East Asian governments to agree on - and implement - financing mechanisms to encourage affected nations to protect their rainforests.

Unilever's climate change impacts

Finally, Paul also made a commitment to rigorously measure and manage Unilever's impact on climate change across the entire value chain. This means going beyond measuring just the greenhouse gases from its transport fleets and factories to also measuring the impact from the sourcing of its raw materials and of consumer use.

Paul concluded: "We need to focus on where the impacts are greatest and where we can make a difference. None of these things are easy but we must not squander any opportunity to make progress."

World Business Summit on Climate Change

The World Business Summit on Climate Change, which brought together more than 500 business leaders, is being seen as a crucial milestone on the road to December's meeting in Copenhagen at which governments will try to hammer out a successor agreement to the United Nation's Kyoto Protocol.

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