Climate change is one of the greatest threats the humankind has ever known. Forests and climate are intrinsically linked: forest loss and degradation is both a cause and an effect of our changing climate. When forests are destroyed, they allow large quantities of carbon dioxide to stay into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. Forests are the largest storehouse of carbon after the oceans. However, when forests are destroyed by activities such as logging and land conversion for agriculture, they release large quantities of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Healthy forests are essential for maintaining community livelihoods, securing food production, biodiversity and resilience to climate change. Long-term efforts to better manage both forest and the land sector are essential to reducing some of the worst impacts of climate change.
Speaking at the UN climate talks in Paris, Charles, Prince of Wales, said: “It is very simple: we must save our forests, for there is no Plan B to tackle climate change or many of the other critical challenges that face humanity without them”
The deal reached at the UN climate talks (#COP21) delivered much of what was asked for. More than 200 countries signed up to an agreement which aims to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C. The text explicitly acknowledges the significance of forests, and recognizes the importance of incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+).
December 1st was the “forest day” at COP21 in Paris, during which representatives from governments, the private sector, indigenous peoples, and civil society announced their plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation at the Forest Focus event of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA).
“Be it a large country like Brazil or a small country like Guatemala, be it the AIDESEP indigenous federation of Peru or the private company Mondelēz, we must encourage and recognize the leadership of all actors to support a development model that values the multiple goods and services that forests provide,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF, who was invited to speak at the event. “At a time when we need an “all-hands-on-deck” approach, where all sectors accelerate efforts to decarbonize to prevent global temperature increases of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the forest sector showed us today how we can deliver greater ambition faster through a combination of individual leadership of state and non-state actors, and collaboration.”
A number of heads of government showed they were ready to take the lead by announcing bold new partnerships for forest conservation and restoration. Commitments from tropical forest countries are being backed up by pledges of financial support from donor countries.
Most notably, Germany, Norway and the UK stated that they “stand ready […] to increase their annual support for REDD+ if countries come forward with ambitious and high quality proposals, with the aim to provide $1 billion per year by 2020, or to provide over $5 billion in the period 2015-2020, including a significant increase in pay-for-performance finance if countries demonstrate measured, reported and verified emission reductions.” Many forest countries have included commitments to reduce emissions from forests under their national climate change plans.
“Nature is a powerful ally in our fight against climate change,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “We are encouraged to see such a strong focus on nature-based solutions in the new agreement, which lays a solid foundation for the world to move towards a more sustainable, resilient and low-carbon future. We cannot afford to leave nature out of the equation; no climate action can possibly succeed without it.”
The World Bank Group issued the statement from World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the Global Climate Change Agreement at COP21: “We called for strong ambition, for remarkable partnerships, for mobilization of finance, and for implementation of national climate plans. Paris delivered. Now the job becomes our shared responsibility. The World Bank Group is ready to help immediately and will do its utmost to realize this vision of prosperity.”