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

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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.

Through the Lima Challenge, forest countries have committed to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) if donor countries increase their funding. These are not empty words – protecting forests has proved to be an effective measure to reduce emissions.

Since 2008, Norway has contributed around US $2.8 billion to protect and preserve tropical forests. Brazil is the world's largest tropical forest country and one of the most important partner countries for Norway. In 2008, Norway and Brazil signed a Letter of Intent, where Norway pledged to contribute up to US $1 billion to the Amazon Fund in Brazil until 2015, if Brazil could show that deforestation in the Amazon went down.

From 2008 to 2014, Brazil reduced deforestation in the Amazon by around 60%. By the end of 2015, Norway fulfilled its commitment in recognition of Brazil's massive efforts in reducing deforestation in its Amazon region. Brazil’s reduction of deforestation is probably the world's largest single effort to mitigate carbon emissions to date. And equally impressive, this has not negatively affected the agriculture production - the output of beef and soy production has increased in the same period.

The private agriculture sector is embracing the forest agenda. There’s the commitment made by the Consumer Goods Forums, which counts 400 companies representing over US$ 3 trillion in revenue as members, to eliminate deforestation from their business operations. There’s also the work of the Tropical Forests Alliance 2020, a public-private coalition aiming to reduce commodity-driven deforestation by 2020.

Norway has in place pay-for-results partnerships with Brazil, Indonesia, Peru, Colombia, Liberia, Guyana and Ethiopia. After working on this global challenge and opportunity since 2008, we are more convinced than ever that investing in reduced forest emissions is indeed time and money well spent. Therefore, at COP21 in December last year, Norway announced that we will extend our International Forest and Climate Initiative (NICFI) and support for REDD+ through the year 2030. The Paris Agreement should provide new incentives and instruments to support and finance reduced forest emissions.

It’s clear that sustainable economic and social development without large-scale deforestation is the only possible path forward for our planet and our common future.

Join the World Bank as it continues the conversation about forests at the 2016 Spring Meetings: Think Forests: Why Investing in Forests is the Next Big Thing
Tune in on April 14 at 2:30 p.m. E.S.T.  #ThinkForests


Tone Skogen

Tone Skogen State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway

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