The Democratic Republic of Congo’s efforts to shift to sustainable land use is producing first results in the Mai Ndombe province- an encouraging model for other countries seeking to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.
As I look out the window of our small propeller plane heading toward Inongo, the capital of the Mai Ndombe province in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the difference in landscape is jarring. The areas around Kinshasa, the sprawling capital city with a population over 10 million, are marked by degraded lands with barely a tree in sight. As we fly further north and east, we pass over scattered patches of green on savannahs, but when we cross over into the Congo Basin, there are suddenly forests as far as the eye can see. Mai Ndombe, my final destination, spans more than 12 million hectares, most of which are forest, and is part of one of the most important tropical ecosystems left on earth.
If ever there was a year to make significant progress on forest conservation and climate change, it was 2016. Coming on the heels of the historic COP21 Paris Agreement, 2016 was a year to demonstrate the commitment the World Bank Group has to support countries as they take forward their nationally determined contributions to address our global climate change challenge. It’s gratifying to look back on 2016 and feel that we contributed to harnessing this momentum and sense of urgency; especially in showing how sustainable land use, including sustainable forest management, is critical to achieving the ambitious targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
In Nepal, indigenous groups produced a range of training materials, including videos in local languages on forests and climate change, to help more than 100 women and community leaders in the Terai, Hill and Mountain areas better understand what terms like ‘mitigation and adaptation strategies for climate resilience’ mean for them in their daily lives.
A team of consultants in Kenya, who are members of indigenous communities with an understanding of regional politics and geographical dynamics, worked on increasing community involvement in sustainable forest management through workshops and face-to-face meetings. As part of their work, they collected information on land tenure status within indigenous territories, which will help the country prepare a national strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation.
With all eyes on Paris climate meetings in December, we are at a critical moment to show that our efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are moving from concept to reality.
The World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, a 47-country collaboration, focuses on reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, also known as REDD+; the Carbon Fund supports countries that have made progress on REDD+ readiness through performance-based payments for emission reductions.
New York this week plays host to Climate Week 2015, where business and government leaders are convening to make pledges and commit to actions to demonstrate that development does not have to come at the expense of the environment.
One year ago this event was a forum for the New York Declaration on Forests, a public-private compact to end natural forest loss by 2030.
Now one year on, the World Bank Group remains an active partner working with countries and companies to help turn forestry commitments into actions on the ground.
World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte talks about Brazil's shift toward green, inclusive growth and how innovative practices developed there have gone global. The next challenge: developing business models to invest in the restoration of degraded land.
Last week in Paris, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s partners and stakeholders agreed on groundbreaking rules for investments in tropical forest protection in developing nations – a framework that will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our rapidly warming world.
Capping an intense five days of negotiations, this major milestone unblocks $390 million in funding held in escrow in the facility’s Carbon Fund. The agreement (formally known as a Methodological Framework) spells out how tropical countries should design and implement large-scale protection programs in the lowland and mountain forests of the tropics.
In return, the countries get results-based payments from donor countries that support climate policy and social development goals.
It’s the first time an international organization has put on paper the operational rules for purchasing so-called REDD+ credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (REDD is short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.)
Reaching consensus on the operational roadmap for REDD+ required input from a diverse set of sometimes-contradictory viewpoints.
Seated at the table to negotiate through the many issues in Paris were donor countries, private corporations, officials from tropical countries willing to experiment with REDD+, civil society organizations and representatives from indigenous groups who were championing the rights of traditional dwellers in tropical forests.
When Jane Goodall spoke Tuesday at the World Bank, she said she had recently begun to understand the exciting potential value of REDD – reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. For decades, Dr. Goodall and others have been fighting for the conservation of forests to preserve and protect animal habitat– in the case of Dr. Goodall, that of chimpanzees in Tanzania. And now, many people like Jane Goodall are making the connection between this battle and the fight against climate change. By granting greater value to trees that are alive and standing rather than cut down, and making payments to reduce emissions by preserving forests, not only does the climate benefit but biodiversity is also protected, including species that are under the threat of extinction.
In her talk to staff, Dr. Goodall spoke about her shock when she discovered the extent of deforestation surrounding the national park in Tanzania in which her famous study of chimpanzees has taken place over the past 50 years.“It was in early 1990 that I flew over the Gombe National Park – it’s tiny, it’s only 30 square miles, but we flew over all the land around it and it was absolutely horrifying to me to see that, yes, I knew there was deforestation outside the park but I had not realized it was total deforestation“, said Dr. Goodall .
REDD provides a new opportunity to scale up initiatives like those of Jane Goodall to the national level, raises the profile of conservation work, and potentially creates new sources of funding for forest protection. But REDD also has a lot to gain from Dr. Goodall’s experience and wisdom. She is arguably the greatest ambassador for wildlife and forest conversation in the world today. Now she squeezes the annual UN conferences into her astounding, 300-day-a-year travel schedule. Anywhere she goes, she greets audiences with the call of the chimpanzee, and proceeds to make a compelling case about what REDD could be on the ground – forest protection, stewardship of flagship species, but also socio-economic development (the Jane Goodall Institute funds myriad projects aimed at improving communities’ well-being).
Although the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen badly failed to achieve legally binding agreements, including on the specific mechanism of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), there was nevertheless a general sense that this mechanism is something worth pursuing. Meetings and discussions continued to take place after the conference was over, and a fund of US$ 10 billion is being set up to promote initial steps for tropical developing countries to prepare for REDD.
What lessons can be learned from the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation rates have been steadily declining for 5 years?
Compared to estimates of land-cover change emissions from elsewhere in the tropics, estimates in the Brazilian Amazon tend to be relatively more certain because they are calculated from annual, satellite-based monitoring of land cover change for over two decades for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon. That is the work of the PRODES Project carried out by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) of Brazil.
Deforestation in the Amazon changes a lot from year to year. The proximate causes are not totally known. They have to do with economic drivers such as prices of commodities (beef, soy, etc.), the opening of roads, but they are also influenced by the effectiveness of law enforcement to curb illegal deforestation.
The latter may have played a key role in reducing deforestation in the last 5 years. During that period, annual deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon plummeted from over 27 thousand km2 (August 2003-July 2004) to around 7 thousand km2 (August 2008-July 2009), an amazing 74% reduction over 5 years!
Before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) held in December 2009 in Copenhagen, the Brazilian media picked up the issue of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). A variety of somewhat conflicting statements came from all quarters: the scientific community, government authorities, environmental NGOs and other interest groups. As expected, they spanned a wide range of views on the issue.
Broadly speaking, tropical deforestation has been declining. Thus, a fundamental question has been put forward: are land-use change emissions of GHGs quantitatively significant enough to warrant a special mechanism under the UNFCCC? Some critics of REDD maintain that emissions from tropical land-use change are not as large as has been assumed, and that it is not as important as emissions from other sectors such as fossil fuel combustion.
Even before I get into the details, let me emphasize that tropical deforestation and REDD are still just as significant as before, and as important, for instance, as the share from transportation emissions. As I will describe in this post, the latest calculations using new data that has become available after the last IPCC report (2007)—following the same methodology as the IPCC—shows that the share of tropical land-use change in overall CO2 emissions has fallen. However, looking at the big picture, tropical deforestation is still a massive issue to tackle in the battle against climate change and attention should not be diverted from REDD.