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Bold Ideas from Pioneering Countries: Saving the Climate One Tree at a Time

Ellysar Baroudy's picture

Also available in: Français

Participants at the ninth meeting of the Carbon Fund in Brussels

 

"This meeting is going to be different. It’s going to be a turning point from the lofty, theoretical policy deliberation to real action on the ground to save our planet’s green lungs and our global climate." Those were my thoughts last week when I walked into a packed conference room in Brussels, Belgium, where a crowd of about 80 people from around the globe had gathered to learn about cutting-edge proposals from six pioneering developing countries with big, bold plans to protect forests in vast areas of their territories.

Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mexico, Nepal, and the Republic of Congo came to the 9th meeting of the Carbon Fund of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) to convince 11 public and private fund participants to select their proposal as one of a small group of pilots intended to demonstrate how REDD+ can work.

Living Landscapes: Solutions for a Sustainable World

Peter Dewees's picture

Photo: Mduduzi Duncan Dlamini, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Kingdom of Swaziland, providing the closing keynote for Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day.

The final rounds of Forests Day and Agriculture Day wrapped up at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha this week under a new shared banner: Living Landscapes Days.

Both Days have become annual events on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences, meant to bring together scientists and policy makers and, originally, to bring forests and farming onto the Conference of Parties (COP) agenda. Forests have largely achieved this objective with the the emergence of various agreements about REDD+.

Agriculture has slipped down the list of priority issues tackled by the COP, which has been struggling to figure out what to do about extending the Kyoto agreements and a range of other issues, but is certain to re-emerge. The agriculture discussions this week at Doha aimed to identify scalable solutions to specific mitigation and adaptation challenges which can benefit farmers; gaps where there are limited existing solutions or limited available knowledge; and potential trade-offs in implementing existing, known solutions.

This year, the two worked together to build on the themes of climate-smart agriculture, which became prominent in Durban in the last COP: farming which builds soil carbon, increasing food security, and enhancing resilience to climate shocks.

Costa Rica scripts a new chapter in forest carbon finance

Benoît Bosquet's picture

Thick cloudy skies subdued the sunlight on an autumnal day in Paris. That did not stop the group of representatives from the public and private sector attending the 5th Carbon Fund Meeting of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) from making a decision that is a major milestone. Costa Rica is set to become the first country to access performance-based payments through the FCPF. This is the first time a national program is being supported by carbon funds in this global initiative of 54 countries and organizations, heralding a new phase in forest carbon finance.

This decision is a strong vote of support for Costa Rica’s ambitious plan to become the first “carbon neutral” country by 2021. Conserving forests and planting trees that capture carbon dioxide plays a large role in the national endeavor.

An interesting feature of Costa Rica’s proposal to the Carbon Fund is the quasi-national scope of the program that would be implemented in a mosaic approach on additional 341,000 ha of mainly privately owned land. Two-thirds of the targeted area is degraded land that the country aims to restore with reforestation, secondary growth and agroforestry, and one-third is old growth forest that will be protected from deforestation. The resulting emission reductions are estimated at 29.5 million tons of CO2. Close to half of these emission reductions (12.6 million tons of CO2) would be offered to the Carbon Fund, and would require an estimated financing of $63 million (assuming a price of $5 per ton of CO2).

A view from the top: mountain forests

Klas Sander's picture

“Mountain Forests – roots to our future”. That was the headline for this year’s International Mountain Day celebrated by the UN every 11th of December since 2003. This year especially emphasized the interdisciplinary implications of sustainable mountain development. Whenever I have the opportunity to spend time in mountains, I realize how strongly the different elements in that landscape depend on each other and how fragile it all is. Earlier this year, for example, I had the privilege to visit the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The experience of seeing these amazing animals in their natural habitat was incredible and it wasn’t just the climb up the Virunga Volcanoes that was breathtaking.

But the conservation of this ecosystem does not only provide benefits in terms of biodiversity conservation. Adjacent communities and the Government of Rwanda as a whole benefit from the income streams the tourism sector generates. Protecting the ecosystem also helps to assure sustainable flow of water from these “water towers” benefiting agriculture and lowland ecosystems alike. Not only are the Virunga gorillas and other mountain species threatened by climate change but there are also consequences for the communities that depend on them.

Covering 24% of the Earth’s surface, mountain ecosystems play a critical role in maintaining a sustainable flow of resources to the plains below. Mountains are the source for nearly 50% of the world’s freshwater for direct consumption, agriculture, and energy. Also, mountain tourism accounts for 15-20% of the world’s tourism industry, totaling an estimated $US70-90 billion per year. Mountain regions are also severely impacted by climate change, which only magnifies existing development challenges. Ecosystems will experience a vertical shift, as climates warm, generally flora and fauna will move towards higher altitudes. Fragile alpine ecosystems systems and endemic flora and fauna are likely to change resulting in significant negative ecological and socio-economic implications.

Can protected areas conserve forests?

Kenneth M. Chomitz's picture

What’s the role of national parks, nature reserves, and other protected areas in conserving tropical forests? Views have see-sawed on this. In the 1990s, protected areas were often derided as ineffective ‘paper parks.’   But mounting evidence from satellite photos showed that deforestation inside protected areas was in fact substantially lower than deforestation outside. Then, a new wave of more sophisticated analyses pointed out that many protected areas were in remote areas or on mountainsides.   So lack of deforestation in these areas didn’t necessarily indicate the success of legal protection. It might just mean that farmers or loggers didn’t find it attractive to clear these inaccessible forests.

At the same time, many social advocates worried that if parks were effective at protecting forests, it must be at the expense of local livelihoods. Strict protected areas typically prohibit the extraction of forest products that poor people need for subsistence and income. On the other hand, it was assumed that relaxing these restrictions – for instance, allowing local people to gather fuelwood and harvest timber – would inevitably lead to forest degradation.

A newly published study provides some surprising and encouraging findings on protected area impacts. The study used global satellite data on forest fires as an indicator of deforestation, and assessed all officially-recognized tropical forest protected areas. The fate of forest plots inside protected areas were compared with otherwise similar, but unprotected points. This corrects for potential bias from the placement of many protected areas in inaccessible regions – and from the establishment of others, to the contrary, as defenses for forests that face particularly high pressure for deforestation.

Why Jane Goodall sees redd when she thinks of forest protection

Benoît Bosquet's picture

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).

What has carbon got to do with kids going to school?

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

Last week, I headed to Ibi Bateke plateau in the interiors of Democratic Republic Republic of Congo (DRC) to see the country’s first project approved and registered under the Kyoto Protocol.  We set off on a long winding road taking us quickly from Kinshasa to the Ibi plateau – 150 kms away from the daily hustle of the over 9 million inhabitants of Kinshasa. Ibi is characteristically thinly forested, partly a result of the poor porous soils. Despite the vast lands, the majority of the land is uninhabited with villages dotting the landscape.

 

The community is replanting its degraded forests with trees like acacia, pines and eucalyptus that absorb carbon from the atmosphere, allowing the project to generate carbon credits which are purchased by the World Bank’s BioCarbon fund. This project is a trail blazer as some of the revenue from the sale of carbon credits is providing basic health care and schools, offering an integrated vision of development.

 

As we entered the village, we met a group of children walking home. Among them was one older kid who chaperoned the smaller ones - the youngest must have been about five. They chattered enthusiastically about their new school. The school was negotiated as one of the benefits for the participatory management of the plantation. Gautier Tschikaya a resident who was accompanying us told us that one day they were driving around on the plantation and found a whole bunch of kids squatting in an abandoned building so that they would not have to walk the 10+ km every day to get to school. At that point, they built a dormitory for those kids and we visited it - situated just below the school now. 

Look under the canopy: There are people, not fences

Gerhard Dieterle's picture

This week I was at the UN Forum on Forests  meeting in New York where the International Year of the Forests was formally launched.

The Year of the Forests starts with a cautiously optimistic message: FAO’s report on the State of the World’s Forests  released at the forum says that the forest loss across the world has slowed down over the last decade.  Now the pattern of deforestation varies and is country-specific rather than being negative across the board. China, Vietnam and Costa Rica among others are countries where the forest cover is actually going up. 
 

More importantly, I see an opening in how the problems of deforestation and forest degradation are being addressed internationally. Like the logo of the International Year of Forests, people are seen at the heart of this effort now. This has not always been the norm. Take the case of REDD  (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) which was debated in Bali at the first Forest Day in 2007. At that time, reducing emissions meant simply putting up fences to conserve the last pristine forests in the Amazon, the Congo basin and in Indonesia.
 

Now our understanding of how to address deforestation has evolved.  Forests today are more strongly linked in people’s minds to questions of food security, improved livelihoods and the general resilience of the people. This is where REDD + comes in, with approaches that go beyond restrictive approaches and focus now more and more on approaches to enhance forest stocks and restore degraded landscapes. It is good news for people and forests that the role of forests in climate change mitigation is being understood in a much broader context.

 

10-year-old Felix Finkbeiner speaks at the United Nations Forum on Forests. Watch the full speech here. 

What forests can now do for Africa

Idah Z. Pswarayi-Riddihough's picture

One of the concrete things to come out of Cancun was the agreement on REDD+ or Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The "+" includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks. The decision in Cancun establishes a framework for rich countries to pay for preventing deforestation in developing countries. While the details are yet to be worked out, the setting up of the mechanism itself was a big step.

 

REDD+ is clearly one of the 'winners’ from Cancun. It is an important development for Africa, where a critical piece of the climate change puzzle lies in preserving and managing its forests well. Although Africa currently contributes only a small amount to global greenhouse gases, the main source of the continent's emissions is deforestation.

 

Over the years we have been engaged in many forest management projects across the continent.  The World Bank has been working with several countries to pilot approaches in sustainable forestry that have provided valuable lessons for the REDD+ mechanism being set up now. During Forest Day in Cancun, many of us discussed how to make the most out of REDD+, and how to ensure that the lessons learned from the Forest Investment Program (FIP) activities in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana can help Africans get more value out of conserving forests than chopping them down. This approach is critical, given Africa's development needs and growth in population. How do we create REDD+ partnerships that bring real value and payments for conservation? How do we ensure the playing field is level for all countries and players in REDD+? Answering these questions will be key to fostering an integrated mitigation and adaptation approach to Africa's forests.

A world of action in Cancun: Don't listen to your grandma

Andrew Steer's picture

Negotiators have worked through the past three nights in search of agreements that all nations can sign up to (see my last blog).  At 3 am this morning they reached consensus on a package of decisions that represents progress in the journey towards a global deal.

 

But most of those in Cancun have more down-to-earth reasons for being here.  They’re here to initiate action – to share experiences, learn from best practice, forge new partnerships, and launch new programs.

 

Here’s a sample from the past 48 hours of some of the action that we’ve been moving forward, when many heads of state, ministers and global leaders such as Ban Ki Moon and Bob Zoellick were in town.

 

Developing Countries push the frontiers on Carbon Markets:

A new Partnership of Market Readiness was launched by the World Bank and by ministers from 15 countries  with the purpose of supporting innovation in developing nations on market based instruments. Countries like China, Chile, Columbia, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Ukraine and many others – are introducing their own market based instruments. This new facility – now US$30 million but expected to rise to US$100 million – will provide technical support to these efforts, and seek to share practical lessons for others to follow.

 

This is part of a much bigger movement on carbon markets here in Cancun. The Clean Development Mechanism is in need of reform so that transactions costs are reduced and low income countries get better access to funds. [So far around US$25 billion has flowed to developing countries through carbon markets, but only 2% of this goes to Africa.] The High level Advisory Group on Finance  estimates that US$30-50 billion could flow annually to developing countries through the offset markets by 2020 with moderate progress in policies. The fact that so many leading developing countries are now creating their own internal markets could help hugely in driving down the cost of mitigation, bringing in new technology and, over time,  building a linked global market

 

Negotiators at Cancun. Photo by IISD

 

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