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forests

Wonderful Life: Biodiversity for sustaining people and their livelihoods

Adriana Moreira's picture
Francisco "Chico" Mendes (1944 - 1988), Brazilian rubber-tapper and environmentalist, actively involved in protecting the Amazon forest through his advocacy for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Photo credit: Miranda Smith 

As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.

The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.

Think forests and start by listening to their people

Etta Cala Klosi's picture
Myrna Cunningham
Interview with Dr. Myrna Cunningham


My childhood forests are tall, old growth trees clinging to mountainous slopes.

My sister and I would spend the first two weeks of our summer break at camps in the mountains of Albania. Getting a spot at a camp was a coveted ‘luxury’ but my sister and I were lucky -our mother was an official chaperone. She would wake us at 5 am to walk in the forest before everyone else was up. I have to say that as a five year old I didn’t appreciate the scenery. It was too early in the morning and anyway who cared about birds and foxes? (One time though we did see a red squirrel jumping from tree branches and even I had to admit that was awesome.)

Why investing in forests is money—and time-- well spent

Tone Skogen's picture
Also available in: Português
Togo_Andrea Borgarello / World Bank

It is widely acknowledged that reducing emissions from deforestation could bring about one-third of the greenhouse gas emission reductions we need by 2030 to stay on a 2-degrees trajectory. But protecting and managing forests wisely does not only make sense from a climate perspective.  It is also smart for the economy. Forests are key economic resources in tropical countries. Protecting them would increase resilience to climate change, reduce poverty and help preserve invaluable biodiversity.

Here are just a few facts to illustrate why forests are so important. First, forests provide us with ecosystem services like pollination of food crops, water and air filtration, and protection against floods and erosion. Forests are also home for about 1.3 billion people worldwide who depend on forest resources for their livelihood. Locally, forests contribute to the rainfall needed to sustain food production over time. When forests are destroyed, humanity is robbed of these benefits. 

The New Climate Economy report shows us that economic growth and cutting carbon emissions can be mutually reinforcing. We need more innovation and we need more investments in a low carbon direction. This requires some fundamental choices of public policy, and the transformation will not be easy. However, it is possible and indeed the only path to sustained growth and development. If land uses are productive and energy systems are efficient, they will both drive strong economic growth and reduce carbon intensity.

Already, the world's large tropical forest countries are taking action. 

Por que investir nas florestas é dinheiro e tempo bem empregados

Tone Skogen's picture
Also available in: English
Togo_Andrea Borgarello / World Bank

É amplamente reconhecido que a redução de emissões provenientes do desmatamento poderia corresponder a um terço da diminuição das emissões de gases de efeito estufa necessária até 2030 para o planeta não aquecer mais de 2ºC. No entanto, proteger e gerenciar as florestas de forma prudente não somente faz sentido de uma perspectiva do clima. É também algo inteligente para a economia. As florestas são recursos econômicos de suma importância nos países tropicais. Protegê-las aumentará a resiliência às mudanças do clima, reduzirá a pobreza e ajudará a preservar a biodiversidade.

Seguem apenas alguns fatos para ilustrar por que as florestas são tão importantes. Primeiro, as florestas nos prestam serviços de ecossistema, tais como polinização de safras de alimentos, água e filtração do ar, bem como proteção contra inundações e erosão. As florestas também abrigam cerca de 1,3 bilhão de pessoas no mundo inteiro que dependem dos recursos florestais para subsistência. Em nível local, as florestas contribuem para a pluviosidade necessária para manter a produção de alimentos no correr do tempo. Quando as florestas são destruídas, esses benefícios são roubados da humanidade. 

O novo Relatório sobre a Economia Climática nos mostra que o crescimento econômico e a redução das emissões de carbono podem se reforçar mutuamente. Precisamos de mais inovação e mais investimentos para ter uma economia de baixo carbono. Isso requer certas escolhas fundamentais de política pública e a transformação não será fácil. No entanto, é possível e na realidade trata-se do único caminho para um crescimento e desenvolvimento sustentados. Se o uso da terra for produtivo e os sistemas energéticos forem eficientes, ambos impulsionarão um desenvolvimento econômico sólido e reduzirão a intensidade das emissões carbono.

Em âmbito mundial, os países com as grandes florestas tropicais já estão agindo.

Nas florestas, uma mudança de atitude em favor dos povos indígenas

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | English
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank

Em 2015, mais de 500 milhões de hectares de florestas eram posse de povos indígenas. Embora nas últimas décadas a área florestal designada aos povos indígenas e sob sua posse tenha aumentado, os governos ainda administram 60% dessas áreas, e as corporações e agentes privados, 9%. A pressão dos povos indígenas nas últimas décadas tornou possível aumentar em cerca de 50% a área florestal reconhecida como propriedade das comunidades indígenas e a elas designada. A América Latina e o Caribe, onde os povos indígenas controlam 40% das florestas, é a região com maiores avanços. Outras regiões do mundo mostram tendências semelhantes.

Para os povos indígenas, que sempre têm vivido na floresta, ela representa seu espaço de reprodução cultural, produção de alimentos e segurança espiritual. Para os governos e empresas, a floresta contém ativos importantes para a produção de alimentos, desenvolvimento econômico, segurança, mitigação da mudança do clima, sequestro de carbono, água, minerais e extração de gás. A essas percepções divergentes sobre propriedade e uso da floresta somou-se nas últimas décadas a multiplicação de conflitos sobre o controle do território e recursos florestais. Com a crescente demanda internacional de bens primários (minerais, hidrocarbonetos, soja e outros produtos agrícolas básicos), há um maior dinamismo econômico com base em sua exploração. No entanto, isso foi ao custo de graves impactos ambientais, reclassificações espaciais e violações de direitos, interesses, territórios e recursos dos povos indígenas (CEPAL 2014).

Nesse contexto, o que está contribuindo para a mudança de atitude, tanto no nível de país como global, que nos permite concluir que essa situação já começou a se reverter?

For forests, a change in attitude in favor of indigenous communities

Myrna Kay Cunningham Kain's picture
Also available in: Español | Português
Girl. Panama. Gerardo Pesantez-World Bank
In 2015, more than 500 million hectares of forests were held by indigenous peoples.  Despite the increase in forest area designated for and owned by indigenous peoples in recent decades, governments still administer 60 percent of these forest areas while firms and private individuals administer 9 percent. Pressure exerted by indigenous peoples over the past few decades has led to a 50 percent increase in forest areas recognized as being owned or designated for use by indigenous communities. The greatest strides have been made in Latin America and the Caribbean, where indigenous peoples control 40 percent of forest land. Similar trends have been observed in other regions across the globe.  

For the indigenous peoples who have always lived in the forests, these areas represent their space for cultural reproduction, food production, and spiritual security. For governments and companies, forests contain major assets for food production, economic development, security, climate change mitigation, carbon sequestration, water, minerals, and gas extraction. Added to these divergent views on forest ownership and use is the proliferation in recent decades of conflicts over territorial control and forest resources. Growing international demand for commodities (minerals, hydrocarbons, soybeans, and other basic agricultural products) has fueled greater economic activity linked to the development of forest resources. However, this progress has come at a price: adverse environmental impacts, the reclassification of spaces, and the dispossession of the rights, interests, territories, and resources of indigenous peoples (ECLAC 2014).  

In this context, a question arises: What is contributing to the behavioral change, both at the country and global levels, which leads us to conclude that a reversal in the situation has begun?

Melihat dampak kebakaran hutan di Sumatra Selatan: Pandangan dari lapangan

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: English
Indonesia, burned forest. Photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

Musim gugur lalu saya kaget membaca judul berita ini: Kebakaran hutan di Indonesia menghasilkan emisi gas rumah kaca setara seluruh ekonomi Amerika Serikat.
 
Judul lain berbunyi: Antara Juni dan Oktober 2015, lahan sebesar 2,5 juta hektar – atau 4,5 kali luas Bali – terbakar guna membersihkan lahan untuk produksi minyak kelapa sawit, tanaman hasil hutan non-kayu dengan nilai tertinggi, terdapat dalam, antara lain, produk makanan, kosmetik dan biofuel.
 
Belum lama ini, bersama Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck dan Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, saya mengunjungi Sumatra Selatan, salah satu provinsi yang paling menderita akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Kami melihat berbagai ilalang dan tanda-tanda lanskap rusak yang lain, mengganti kawasan hutan gambut yang kaya akan keanekaragaman hayati.
 
Kami berbicara dengan masyarakat setempat yang menjelaskan bahwa mereka menutup pintu dan jendela dengan handuk basah agar mengurangi asap. Keluarga mereka termasuk dari setengah juta warga yang menderita gangguan pernapasan serta sakit kulit dan mata akibat kebakaran hutan. Anak-anak mereka termasuk diantara 4,6 juta siswa yang tidak bisa sekolah, bahkan selama beberapa minggu, akibat kebakaran hutan.
 
Namun walaupun banyak keluarga kehilangan pemasukan karena usaha mereka terpaksa  tutup sementara, ada juga yang mengatakan api itu memperbaiki kondisi  tanah setempat.

Seeing the impact of forest fires in South Sumatra: a view from the field

Ann Jeannette Glauber's picture
Also available in: Bahasa Indonesia
Indonesia, burned forest. photo by Ann Jeannette Glauber / World Bank

This past autumn, I saw a shocking headline: Forest fires in Indonesia were creating as many greenhouse gas emissions as the entire United States economy.
 
Between June and October 2015, an estimated 2.6 million hectares—or 4.5 times the size of Bali— burned to clear land for production  of palm oil, the world’s highest value non-timber forest crop, used in food products, cosmetics, biofuels.
 
Recently, along with Vice President for Sustainable Development Laura Tuck and Indonesia Country Director Rodrigo Chaves, I visited South Sumatra, one of the provinces hardest hit by the fires.
 
We saw scrubby fire-adapted landscapes that had replaced biodiversity-rich peat swamp forests.
 
We spoke with local communities who explained how they covered doors and windows with wet towels, to help reduce the smoke.  These families are among the half million people who suffered from fire-related respiratory infections, skin and eye ailments; their children were among the 4.6 million students who missed school last year due to fires, some for weeks at a time.
 
While some of these families lost earnings or assets due to the fires, others spoke of how fire improves soil quality. 
 

Growing resilient forest landscapes in the face of climate change

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: Français | Español
Andrea Borgarello for World Bank/TerrAfrica

Playing out this week and next in Paris is a high-stakes match between science and political will.
 
The science part is quite clear: 2015 is set to be the hottest year on record – a full degree over pre-industrial averages. Climate change is already taking a toll on countries. Add to that we have El Nino wreaking havoc in many parts of the world.  And it is going to get warmer.
 
The political analysis is more complicated. On the one hand, if the national plans, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) drawn up by countries to tackle climate change were implemented, including actions that have been conditioned on available finance, this would likely put the planet on about a 2.7 C degree trajectory that would be catastrophic for the economic, social and natural systems on which we depend.  Clearly more needs to be done. On the other hand, it is a sign of welcome progress. The fact that almost all the world’s countries (Carbon Brief tracks 184 climate pledges to date) have put forward INDCs is a remarkable feat many would have considered impossible just a few years ago.  So there is progress, just not fast enough.
 
Paris should be seen as an important milestone in an arduous journey– a platform for generating an ever upward spiral of ambition in many fields of climate action.
 
One area that promises innumerable wins for people and the planet is land use change, agriculture, and forestry. Together these sectors account for about 24 percent of global emissions, but represent a much greater share of emissions in many developing countries. A preliminary analysis of INDCs shows strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, forest degradation, land use change and agriculture. And there is evidence of a growing appetite for landscape restoration measures in many of those countries. 

Old fuel for a new future: the potential of wood energy

Paula Caballero's picture
A woman buying a clean cookstove in Tanzania. Klas Sander / World Bank

The use of wood energy – including firewood and charcoal – is largely considered an option of last resort. It evokes time-consuming wood collection, health hazards and small-scale fuel used by poor families in rural areas where there are no other energy alternatives.

And to a certain extent this picture is accurate. A study by the Alliance for Clean Cookstoves found that women in India spend the equivalent of two weeks every year collecting firewood, which they use to cook and heat their homes. Indoor air pollution caused by the smoke from burning firewood is known to lead to severe health problems: the WHO estimates 4.3 million deaths a year worldwide attributed to diseases associated with cooking and heating with solid fuels. Incomplete combustion creates short-lived climate pollutants, which also act as powerful agents of climate change.

But wood is a valuable source of energy for many of the 2.9 billion people worldwide who lack access to clean cooking facilities, including in major cities. It fuels many industries, from brickmaking and metal processing in the Congo Basin to steel and iron production in Brazil.  

In fact, the value of charcoal production in Africa was estimated at more than $8 billion in 2007, creating livelihoods for about seven million women and men, and catering to a rapidly growing urban demand. From this standpoint, wood energy makes up an enterprise of industrial scale. 

So, instead of disregarding wood energy as outdated, we must think of the economic, social and environmental benefits that would derive from modernizing its use. After all, wood energy is still one of the most widespread renewable fuels at our disposal. We already have the technological know-how to enhance the sustainability of wood energy value chains. Across the European Union’s 28 member states, wood and solid biofuels produced through “modern” methods accounted for nearly half of total primary energy from renewables in 2012.

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