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(This post originally appeared on the Peru COP20 website)

By: Carla Ramírez Zea / Main Forest Advisor, FAO Peru

“The new policies on climate change demand greater quantity, quality and efficiency of forest information. A truly comprehensive monitoring of forest management involves biophysical – environmental, socioeconomic and governance information needed to guide and evaluate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

The welfare of citizens worldwide is threatened by increased emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG), mainly from industrialized countries. For this reason, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emerges as a space for discussion to define global agreements to reduce emissions of party countries. During the discussion, the most developed countries have been called to meet their targets for reducing emissions, but also support for the least developed countries has been boosted to plan mitigation and adaptation, through institutional and technical capacity building, as well as through the definition of funding sources.

Forests in public policies

The role of forests in maintaining human wellbeing is being increasingly recognized. Forests are carbon sinks, carbon being the most abundant element in greenhouse gases. They are also a source of food, medicine, and income from lumberable and non-lumberable products; retain and filter water; are cultural and spiritual sanctuaries; and are gene banks of flora and fauna. It has been shown that the loss of forests causes up to 17% of GHG emissions, so reducing deforestation and forest degradation is one of the strongest mechanisms for mitigating GHG emissions. For these reasons, forests are increasingly important in national and international public policy, to be applied within a vision of comprehensive and responsible land use, avoiding deforestation and forest degradation.

In this context, States are increasingly involved in updating and evaluating their forest and climate change policies. To achieve this, comprehensive monitoring of forest management is essential. This involves the generation of information on biophysical aspects of forests and other productive land use, socio-economic benefits of forests to the population and governance for equitable distribution of those benefits. This information as a whole is necessary not only to a solid construction of new policies but for the payment of benefits based on results, as the mechanism for Reducing Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

Quantity, quality and efficiency of forest information

In the case of Peru, a country with 57% of forested area , the government is running serious initiatives to improve information on a broad range of needs for forest management, such as the national forest inventory (with its two components: biophysical and socio-economic), satellite monitoring of forest and land use, inventories for evaluation and assessment of the natural heritage,the permanent production forests inventory, the measurement, reporting and verification system for REDD+, the national greenhouse gas inventorysystem, the forest cadaster, the control module of wild wood production, the national forest and wild fauna information system, and information for the national accounts and for the forestry and ecosystem service satellite accounts.

Other initiatives to develop are the national information system of safeguards for REDD+ and the national monitoring of forest governance. All these initiatives jointly managed would truly support comprehensive monitoring of forest management, since they involve biophysical-environmental, socioeconomic and governance information needed to guide and evaluate actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, to face this challenge, you must meet certain principles demanded by users. For example, the scientific community — represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — requests relevant, reliable, complete, consistent and transparent information. On the other hand, the increasing number of actors involved demands more participation to present their goals and needs, and also request that the information is accessible.

Another important principle is the sustainability of monitoring systems, in such a way that States must work hard on financial strategies and institutional coordination to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure system efficiency. Finally, due to the complexity of this challenge, scientific and practical knowledge should be shared among international organizations, as well as national, subnational and local government institutions, scientific communities and civil society organizations.