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TiinaVahanen300(This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of the InFO News, the newsletter of FAO’s Forest team).

Tiina Vahanen, Associate Secretary-General, XIV World Forestry Congress

When the world’s foresters and forest supporters come together for the XIV World Forestry Congress in Durban in September, they will have a unique opportunity to highlight the urgent need to give forests credit for the true value they provide.

Increasingly, the role that forests play in mitigating climate change is being publicly recognized, and governments and companies alike are pledging to reduce deforestation and restore forests. But we must not lose sight of the fact that more than a billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, nor that the continued, sustainable use of the world’s forests is vital for rural development.

Decreasing deforestation is not enough: we also need to commit to increasing investment in forests, both to ensure their role as a renewable source of forest products and as a means to lift rural populations out of poverty. Countries need to recognize and strengthen the multiple ways in which forests contribute to national economies, putting a price on the sometimes invisible, non-cash benefits that forests provide for people’s livelihoods, food, shelter and energy needs. Moreover, committing resources to developing and sharing knowledge is increasingly critical to fully capitalize on those benefits.

For this reason, investing in forests as an investment in people is the cross-cutting focus of the XIV World Forestry Congress. In addition, six sub-themes will highlight the role of forests in sustaining life, acting as buffers against environmental change and inspiring new technologies and products, as well as the need to integrate forests and other land uses and to improve forest monitoring and governance.

Preparations for the Congress by the Republic of South Africa and FAO are well under way, with an inspiring programme that includes special events on climate change, fuel wood, innovation and investment, water, wildlife and youth, as well as the launch of a new Global Forest Resources Assessment report.

Our hope is that the Congress in Durban will be the most dynamic and inclusive yet, with broad participation from governments, universities, civil society, the private sector and individuals with a personal interest. In particular, we are working to ensure that the voices of young people, women and local communities will be heard.

To this end, the Congress sessions will be more interactive than ever before, with interviews, debates, cuttingedge discussions with skilled moderators and innovative uses of social media to stimulate and engage a wide range of participants. We are delighted to report that the call for abstracts has resulted in over 2000 submissions from around the world, including – for the first time – proposals for videos demonstrating the successes and challenges of work going on in the field.

Ultimately, the Congress will be judged on its outcomes. Among these we expect exciting new collaborative partnerships and networks, and the exchange of a great deal of invaluable experience, ideas and knowledge. The Congress will also issue a set of key messages that we hope will be instrumental in strengthening the role of forests and forestry in sustainable development, in underscoring forestry’s contribution to the implementation of the new post 2015 agenda, and in paving the road to a new climate change agreement at the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris in December.

I hope as many of you as possible will join us in Durban to add your voice to the vital task of defining a lasting vision for the sustainable future of forests and forestry.

Follow the XIV World Forestry Congress:

Congress homepage:

Twitter hashtag: #WFC2015

ivo mulderBy Ivo Mulder, Advisor, REDD+ Green Economy at UNEP

“While the comparatively few corporate pioneers are reducing their dependency and impacts on the environment, quantifying environmental risks in monetary terms may be necessary to convince the majority of corporations that do comparatively little to follow suit.”

Over the past few years I’ve visited numerous corporate sustainability conferences around themes such as water, REDD+, climate change and biodiversity. The same corporate leaders are often present at such meetings such as Coca Cola, Unilever, Akzo Nobel, Rabobank. These and other leaders regularly top indices such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), which measure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of their direct business operations and increasingly also indirect impacts through their supply chains. But what about their sector peers?

The challenge
There are around 45,000 listed, publicly owned companies globally and an unknown number of privately owned companies. The DJSI World Index includes 309 best-in-class companies out of a total sample of 2500 largest companies in the S&P Global Broad Market IndexSM. Other data and index providers typically track around 3000 companies, which mean that ‘only’ 5-6% of all listed companies are being tracked on their environmental and social performance, and that less than 1% can be considered ‘best-in-class’ in terms of their environmental and social performance. This shows there is a need to track the 80-90% of listed companies (notwithstanding the countless privately owned small and medium enterprises).

But why do some companies take environmental issues serious, but the majority don’t? The reasons differ within and between private sectors, but can include pressure of non-governmental organisations, shifting consumer preferences for sustainably sourced products, investor demand, and stricter environmental and social regulatory requirements by governments around disclosure, procurement and certification. To date it has proved to be difficult to calculate the (lack of) efforts that companies are conducting to reduce their environmental impact and dependency in monetary terms. But – apart from government regulation – developing methods that directly price corporate environmental risks in terms of higher or lower costs or earnings may be a major way to convince the larger majority to follow suit.

Pricing environmental risk: what does that mean?
Many companies directly or indirectly either depend on environmental services such as water, fish, timber, etc or impact the environment through deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, water and air pollution, etc. Corporate environmental risks are related to the probability of any of these impacts or dependencies to affect standard financial metrics such as EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Tax) and costs. Ultimately, the value of a company – whether publicly listed or privately owned – should be adjusted for the financially material environmental risk in Profit & Loss (P&L) statements, corporate balance sheets and in the share price. This could and should both be in positive and negative sense in order to stimulate innovation.

Is pricing a panacea?
No! Tropical deforestation and forest degradation, depletion of fishing stocks and degradation of coral reefs are serious environmental concerns but it may be too technically difficult in some cases to price the risks for companies that are affected by it, or it may turn out that the risks are not significantly material for a company to adjust its business model. At the same time, building models to price climate change risks through ’carbon budgets’ for fossil fuel companies what CarbonTracker andBloomberg are doing or have done, or pricing water risk for corporate bonds or public equities what the NCD, GIZ and Bloomberg are working on, may eventually stimulate or convince a greater number of companies to reduce environmental impacts and dependencies.


(This blog post is produced by the UN-REDD Programme’s regional office for Asia Pacific in a series of Go-REDD+ monthly articles)

REDD+ is a mechanism under the UNFCCC, and for this reason, it is the decisions of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the UNFCCC that guides all of us in designing, developing and implementing national REDD+ programmes. It is therefore essential that we have a good understanding of exactly what the CoP decisions mean. However, for anyone wanting to educate themselves on CoP decisions, there are a couple of significant barriers to overcome or questions to answer.

Firstly, which CoP decisions mention REDD+? Most CoP meetings reach a large number of decisions, and only a few, at most, will be relevant to REDD+. Secondly, as anyone who has tried to read a CoP decision will know, CoP decisions are written in a rather strange, stylized language that is difficult to follow, even for native English speakers, unless you have been immersed in the UNFCCC process for some time. Here’s an example, from Decision 14/CP.19:

“The CoP … Decides that, consistent with decision 1/CP.16 and decision 2/CP.17, annex III, the data and information referred to in paragraph 3 above should be provided through the biennial update reports by Parties, taking into consideration the additional flexibility given to the least developed countries and small island developing States.”

What does this mean? As the majority of us have not been immersed in the process, it is extremely difficult to work out what exactly this is referring to – requiring a reader to refer back to two previous decisions as well as to text earlier in the same decision.

Fortunately, the REDD+ Cambodia Programme, with support from the UN-REDD Programme, has produced a handy publication that helps to overcome both of these barriers, The Road from Bali to Warsaw: Collection of COP Decisions on REDD+.

Thirteen CoP decisions from CoP-13 (Bali) in 2007 to CoP-19 (Warsaw) in 2013 are included in the publication. These are all of the CoP decisions directly related to REDD+. But, in addition to bringing all the decisions together in one publication, with the full text of each decision reproduced, the value of the publication comes from the fact that each decision is preceded by a box which summarizes what it means in “normal” English. So, going back to the example quoted above, the box that precedes Decision 14/CP.19 explains that it is the data and information used for the estimation of anthropogenic forest-related emissions and removals that should be reported through the biennial update reports, and that the data needs to be transparent and consistent over time, including with the established REL/RL.

Also, by having all decisions compiled in a searchable document, it is possible to quickly and painlessly check on all decisions related to a particular issue. So, for example, if you are interested in all decisions related to safeguards, it is a simple matter to discover that you need to study Decisions 1/CP.16, 2/CP.17, 12/CP.17, 9/CP.19, 11/CP.19, and 12/CP.19.

Even for those of us who work full time on REDD+, it is necessary from time to time to remind ourselves of exactly what the CoP has decided. Having everything in a single publication can therefore save a lot of time and effort. The Road from Bali to Warsaw is an invaluable resource for anyone involved with REDD+ to understand exactly what the international community is expecting when it comes to implementing REDD+.

(Additional resource: The UNFCCC has also produced this Decisions booklet on REDD+.)

2 Steve Midgley FAO.2001 Indonesia

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator, addresses participants of the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. UNDP is one of the collaborating UN agencies of the UN-REDD Programme, together with FAO and UNEP.

I thank Jeff for the introduction, and thanks to the World Economic Forum for organizing this important session.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to address this diverse group of leaders, from such a wide range of sectors, on the critical importance of reducing tropical deforestation related to key agricultural commodities. This cross-sectoral dialogue and collaboration is crucial to build on the momentum of the last year and successfully address deforestation.

Since our Davos Forests session last year, I have been very pleased to witness the growing global partnership around addressing deforestation, both as a climate change issue and a development issue.

Importantly, forest countries have made substantial progress on developing and implementing forest strategies, with support from the international community; Parties to the Climate Convention reached significant agreements on how REDD+ will work; and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals has included new forest targets in its proposal for the new development agenda.

Dozens of major players in the palm oil industry have also committed to eliminating deforestation and human rights violations from their supply chains. As a result, the percentage of the world’s palm oil trade covered by sustainability commitments has grown from fifteen per cent to over ninety per in the past fourteen months – an unprecedented and inspiring achievement. I know that our Forest session right here in Davos last year contributed significantly to this accomplishment.

This sense of momentum, partnership, and action, was also evident at the UN Climate Summit in New York last September, when a global coalition of countries, states, companies, indigenous peoples, and NGOs announced the New York Declaration on Forests. This Declaration set out an unprecedented public-private commitment to halve deforestation worldwide by 2020 and end it by 2030.

Since September, the number of endorsers of the Declaration has grown to 177, and I take this opportunity to thank those who helped drive this process, many of whom are here today: Prime Minister Solberg of Norway; David MacLennan, CEO, Cargill; Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever; Abdon Nababan of AMAN; Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso, President of Peru; Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia; and many others.

As the New Climate Economy Report shows, policies which reduce deforestation can stimulate economic growth and development, spurring agricultural productivity, eliminating rent-seeking behavior, and accelerating the clarification of land rights – thereby reducing social conflict and associated risks to investment.

Commodity production without deforestation can be a win for the climate, and for inclusive development and economic growth, and for smallholder famers and indigenous peoples. But – we will only see these wins achieved if we all act together. We have before us a collective action challenge which requires a global public-private partnership in response. Only if we all do our parts can we achieve these wins.

To build on 2014’s progress, and ensure that 2015 is an equally promising year for the world’s forests, the private sector needs to continue to build on and expand the substantial commitments made over the past year.

At the same time, it is critical that governments and the international community also step up and commit to doing their part. In particular, the international community needs to commit to providing adequate, sustainable, and predictable payments for REDD+ results at a large scale.

With momentum building, the agenda for 2015 must address several key challenges. I urge all of us over the course of this afternoon to consider the following questions:

• What must we do to trigger further commitments to deforestation-free sourcing of other agricultural commodities (beyond palm oil) during 2015? What would it take to have the soy, paper & pulp, and beef sectors in a similar position to palm oil by next year’s Climate Change conference in Paris?

• What must we do to ensure that these commitments are implemented on the ground, and that they contribute to national agendas for economic growth and sustainable and equitable development?

• What must we do to ensure that the all-too-often economically marginalized rural populations benefit from these transformations – particularly smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples?

My thanks again to the World Economic Forum for organizing this session, and for your valuable assistance last year in the preparation for the Climate Summit, and to all of you for being here.

The UN system is committed to working with you to continue to advance the Forests agenda, and to carry forward this spirit of progress and collaboration to Paris and beyond.

helen clark

(This blog post originally appeared on the UNDP’s blog).

As world leaders and heads of business descend on Davos this week for the World Economic Forum, discussions on the crucial role of forests in tackling climate change while helping sustain over 1.6 billion forest dependent people remain key in 2015 – a bellwether year for climate change and sustainable development.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark will open the session “Reducing Tropical Deforestation Related to Key Agricultural Commodities” in Davos with expected participation from President Ollanta Moises Humala Tasso of Peru; Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development of France; CEO’s Marc Bolland of Marks and Spencer and David M. MacLennan of Cargill; and Jeremy Goon, Chief Sustainability Officer of palm oil giant Wilmar.

“Forest conservation is critical to climate change mitigation. Our forests absorb carbon dioxide and provide a range of other services, but when cleared they become a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions,” Helen Clark said, speaking ahead of the event.

Over thirteen million hectares of forests are cleared annually, around three times the area of Switzerland – contributing up to 20 percent of global emissions, and threatening economic progress and human well-being.

With a global climate agreement due to be finalized at the Paris Climate Conference at the end of the year and forests to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted by UN member states in September, Helen Clark says 2015 matters like no other year since the turn of the century.

Referring to the UN Climate Summit hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in September 2014, as well as recent unprecedented progress advancing deforestation free supply chains, she said “we need to maintain and build upon the momentum made last year,” the year scientists have marked as the warmest on record.

The Climate Summit’s forests action area, which UNDP facilitated, saw the launch of theNew York Declaration on Forests – a ground-breaking partnership of companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledging to halve forest loss by 2020 and end it by 2030.

Addressing deforestation promises multiple wins – for the climate, for inclusive development and economic growth, for smallholder famers and indigenous peoples – but only if all sectors act together.

Keeping all sectors engaged is crucial and Davos is the key ground for this to take place. Last year, participants at the Davos session on forests focused on advancing deforestation-free supply chains. As a result, 2014 saw the percentage of global palm oil trade covered by ‘deforestation-free’ commitments grow to over 90 percent – an unprecedented accomplishment.

With leaders such as Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Unilever CEO, Paul Polman and Abdon Nababan, Secretary-General, Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of Indonesia (AMAN) in attendance this year, delegates will discuss how ‘deforestation-free’ commitments might be expanded to cover new commodities and new companies, and examine how smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples can benefit from the implementation of these commitments.

“It is hoped that the private sector will build and expand on the significant commitments already made to achieve deforestation-free supply chains. Governments and other must also commit to playing their necessary roles to that end,” Helen Clark said.


(This post originally appeared in GO-REDD+, an information service of the UN-REDD Programme for the Asia-Pacific region)

By Joel Scriven, UN-REDD Programme

Of the five REDD+ activities set out by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in the Cancun Agreements (decision 1/CP.16, paragraph 70), the most cryptic by a long stretch is “the sustainable management of forests” (SMF). It does not make reference to emissions or carbon stocks, as the other activities do, presenting the first barrier to its interpretation: are we talking about an emissions reduction activity or a carbon stock enhancing activity? As with many other aspects of REDD+, the flexibility allows for country-specific interpretation – but also adds to its complexity.

SMF is often taken to relate to productive forests – those that are used for commercial (logging) purposes. Indeed, the Global Observation of Forest and Land Cover Dynamics’ (GOFC-GOLD) Sourcebook describes SMF as generally referring to “bringing the rate of extraction in line with the rate of increment”. But why should REDD+ work in productive forests – should the focus not be on intact natural forests? What about maximizing biodiversity and ecosystem service co-benefits?

A recently published article by David Edwards and others in Trends in Ecology and Evolution sheds some light on these questions – and, in doing so, on REDD+ implementation as a whole.

The first, simple, answer is that logged tropical forests cannot be ignored: they are now so prevalent that their area is greater than that of natural forests across most of the tropics (the exceptions being the remote forests of the Amazon and Papua New Guinea – though even this is changing).

The second, perhaps more surprising finding, is that logged forests can actually retain a considerable amount of their ecosystem functionality. In terms of carbon storage, for example, studies show that tropical forests can retain 76% of their carbon stocks following logging; and that reduced impact logging practices can facilitate a recovery of 100% of above-ground carbon stocks within 16 years.

When it comes to biodiversity value, the article cites two meta-analyses (each of which considered more than 100 scientific studies) that showed that logged forests in the Amazon, Africa and Southeast Asia retain a similar species richness of animals, insects and plants as compared to nearby old-growth forest. As a specific indicator of the biodiversity conservation value, the case of Borneo is cited, where 42% of the total orangutan population inhabits logged or formerly logged forests (not out of choice, necessarily! – but this exemplifies the potential of logged forests to retain their habitat/biodiversity conservation value).

The study also illustrates the importance of logged forests for regulating temperature, moderating flash floods and conserving soils. In addition, productive forests generate higher revenues than natural forests, which should incentivize their sustainable management, rather than their decline into states of extreme degradation and possible eventual loss.

This is not to say that natural/primary forests should not be prioritized; only that logged forests should not be overlooked as valueless second-tier options for REDD+ interventions. It is also worth noting that logged tropical forests are often highly vulnerable to further degradation – and eventual clearing – as logging roads open up accessibility to the forest.

In the context of REDD+, SMF therefore presents an opportunity to use economically productive forests for climate change mitigation, while sustaining important and substantial ecosystem services. While safeguarding the protection of natural forests, priority should also be given to the increasingly large areas covered by logged forests.

Former Pine Forest - Haiti UNEP 2009
By Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Assistant-Secretary-General and UNEP Deputy Executive Director

The Ayoreo people of western Paraguay, who include the last uncontacted indigenous peoples south of the Amazon, have an enemy that they call the beast with metal skin and an attacker of the world. Their spears cannot penetrate its flanks, although they have tried.

This beast in question is not the giant armadillo, a species native to the region, with its big bony shell and claws that can tear through a termite mound like butter. It is the bulldozer, which instead tears through the Gran Chaco, the forest where the Ayoreo live. Between 1990 and 2011, Paraguay lost more than three million hectares of the Chaco forest, displacing the Ayoreo and threatening creatures large and small, like the giant armadillos as well as jaguars, howler monkeys, and tapirs.

Every year, people destroy more than 13 million hectares of forests around the world, which equals more than 25 football fields full of trees every minute. This destruction separates people from the forests that provide them with their livelihoods, and eliminates habitat for endangered species on the ground, and even in the air. For example, forests provide habitat for more than three quarters of all globally threatened bird species.

Deforestation and forest degradation—due expanding areas for cops, plantations and pastures, infrastructure development, destructive logging, and fires—account for a substantial proportion of all global greenhouse gas emissions.

But the environmental and social damage doesn’t stop there. Forests also shelter a tremendous amount of life, and provide food, medicine and other products to people. They also provide us with services, such as filtering fresh water as it collects and moves downstream, so that urban populations have clean water to drink. In fact, 33 of the world’s largest cities obtain their fresh water directly from protected expanses of forest. Globally, forests contribute to the livelihoods of 1.6 billion people worldwide.

In the case of Paraguay, one quarter of the forests have been cleared since 1990, mostly to grow soybeans and to provide pasture for the country’s livestock industry—two of its biggest economic engines. On the other side of the world, in Nigeria, more than one half of the country’s forest cover has been lost since 1990, making way for not just the expansion of agriculture, but also for mining and oil and gas projects. Forests have also been degraded through the collection of fuelwood, the primary source of fuel for about two-thirds of the country.

What Paraguay and Nigeria have in common is that both countries are looking at an international initiative, REDD+, to help keep their remaining trees standing. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from activities on forested lands and invest in more sustainable forest management practices.

Sustainability is the key to REDD+; countries are exploring how the forests can be protected, and even restored, while still providing livelihoods and sustenance for the people who depend on them.

You can find this sustainability model in Nigeria. Cross River State, which contains more than half of the remaining tropical forest in the country, is implementing REDD+ as a way to protect its standing forests while also promoting their contribution to sustainable development. For many communities who live in or near the forests in Nigeria, products like bush mango, bushmeat and fuelwood play an important part in local livelihoods and economies.

Ecotourism is another growing segment of the local economy for communities in Nigeria. Travelers come to Cross River State not only to look at the ‘charismatic megafauna’—the forest elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees—but to seek out the more than 900 varieties of butterflies that live in the region’s tropical high forest or to experience its rugged mountains. Ecotourism thrives in the deep forests of the world; globally, it is worth as much as US$77 billion annually.

For these forests to survive—those in Nigeria, Paraguay, and everywhere else—REDD+ helps increase the value of trees in the eyes of national and local governments and other stakeholders in the private and public sectors. In mapping out where REDD+ activities could contribute to reducing poverty and inequality, and support the cultures of forest-dependent and indigenous peoples, REDD+ strengthens the hands of the environment ministries in land-use planning.

Put simply, if for all these reasons the forests have a quantifiable value in remaining standing, it becomes easier to argue that economic development should not destroy them. Several initiatives, including the UN-REDD Programme, the United Nations collaborative initiative on REDD+, are helping countries to plan better for REDD+ implementation by identifying the value their forests and REDD+ activities can bring.

The implementation of REDD+ and the launch of markets for the carbon credits that underpin the new value of the world’s forests—and the green economies that prosper in these forests—will be a primary topic at the upcoming international climate change negotiations—the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—taking place in Lima, Peru, December 1-12.

Last year’s negotiations provided guidelines on financing, transparency, and monitoring. This year, though, the stakes are higher and yet the world keeps losing more and more of its tree cover. Governments in Paraguay, Nigeria, and 54 other countries involved in the UN-REDD Programme are looking to REDD+ to stop this trend, help its people who depend on forests, and mitigate the climate change impacts that threaten us all. At Lima and beyond, we need to continue down the path of REDD+ implementation so that we as a global society can finally safeguard our forests.

Roberto Faidutti FAO Brazil 1999

Photo: Roberto Faidutti, FAO Brazil

(This post originally appeared in GO-REDD+, an information service of the UN-REDD Programme for the Asia-Pacific region)

By Joel Scriven, UN-REDD Programme

September 2014 saw the release of the Global Carbon Project’s (GCP) 2014 Global Carbon Budget. The GCP brings together leading scientists to make annual estimations of where human-sourced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are coming from and where they are going. It presents findings within the historical context of global emissions – making it essential reading for anyone with an interest in climate change mitigation.

Some of the headlines are perhaps not surprising: the US remains the highest per capita emitter (at 16.4tCO2/person/year), emissions from China are growing fast (and have surpassed the EU in per capita terms), and coal is the major fossil fuel source accounting for 59% of the growth in global emissions in 2013. All of which is reflective of trends in global geopolitics, commodity prices and development path trajectories. But what about emissions from forestry and land use? The answer may come as a surprise.

global climate project 03-12-14Although emissions from land-use change peaked in 1998, largely as a result of the El Niño effect increasing the intensity of fires in Indonesian peatforests, overall they have been in decline since 1990. In fact, as a proportion of total global emissions, and as a result of the growth from fossil fuels, contributions from land-use change are estimated to have fallen from 36% in 1960, to 19% in 1990, to 8% in 2013.

So why all the fuss about mitigating land-use and forestry emissions through REDD+? Well, the answer lies partly in the global mitigation portfolio and partly in the ultimate resting place of all these emissions. Firstly, it is important to place this relative decline in land-use and forestry emissions in the context of the rampant growth of emissions from fossil fuels. After all, in 2013 these emissions still amounted to over 3 gigatonnes of CO2: not a small amount. Secondly, through addressing emissions from this sector, we can safeguard numerous and well- ocumented other environmental services such as conservation of biodiversity and other environmental services, livelihood provisions for forestdependent people, water quality provisions, and so on. Thirdly, it is considered to be a relatively cost- ffective (read: cheaper!) approach to mitigating climate change than, say, replacing all diesel-spouting buses with electric ones.

So that’s the main reason for reducing emissions from forests. But there’s more: where do these GHGs actually go, once released, from coal, gas or forests? Of the total human-sourced emissions between 2004 and 2013 (approximately 35 gigatonnes of CO2 per year), only 44% ended up in the atmosphere where they play havoc with our climate system. Of the remainder, 26% went into the oceans and 29% was absorbed by forests (technically, the ‘land sink’ – but most significantly comprised of forests). To recap: one third of global human GHG emissions are taken up by forests.

This is of huge importance for 1) the role of forests in preventing emissions from reaching the atmosphere; and 2) further justification for keeping our remaining forests intact as emission sponges. These facts also draw our attention to the ‘+’ in REDD+. As countries develop their strategies for REDD+ implementation, and while the inevitable starting point may be analyzing the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, the importance of conserving remaining forests, sustainably managing forests and enhancing their forest areas, should not be overlooked.


(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.

photo: ILRI-Mann

Guest Author: Stella Gama, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Malawi

In my view an effective REDD+ approach is linked to the engagement of all relevant stakeholders, regardless of gender, and to the promotion of equality and equity in terms of participation in decision-making and access to benefits. Specific attention to women’s needs and contributions is key to efficient REDD+ strategies and activities, and the UN-REDD Programme is helping to guide countries conceptually and methodologically in addressing the gender considerations of REDD+.

The UNFCCC ‘Cancun Agreements’ call for the integration of gender considerations within REDD+ national strategies, and this is reflected in the UN-REDD Programme Strategy 2011-2015, which makes numerous references to gender equality and equity. Moreover, integrating gender sensitive activities in REDD+ efforts can help improve the efficiency, efficacy and the long-term sustainability of forest management.

Malawi joined the UN-REDD Programme in 2013 – we wanted to be part of the global REDD+ network to benefit from the capacity development, and technical and financial support provided by the UN-REDD Programme to implement REDD+ activities. Thirty per cent of Malawi’s land area was once covered in forest. Since 1992, there has been a high deforestation rate, according to statistics 2.8 per cent annually, so we hope to increase forest cover through engaging with REDD+ activities and to enhance sustainable forest management strategies.

There are other advantages – working with the UN-REDD Programme also means having a wider platform. The Programme has created a platform for sharing lessons and best practices particularly for countries who have advanced, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, only to learn from other countries and from the mistakes which have already been made and giving us a pool of knowledge to draw on. Other advantages include support for REDD+ preparedness activities. Malawi has developed a REDD+ Roadmap through support from the US, and now through collaboration with the UN-REDD Programme we will get immediate support in order to implement some of the activities in the roadmap, and address governance and monitoring, reporting and verification. Ultimately we hope we are going to benefit from a national programme.

One of our challenges is that in the past we have had disjointed sector coordination. REDD+ is not just about the forestry sector. We can ensure that we embrace other sectors, and draw a wider range of stakeholders into REDD+, we are looking at the Green Economy approach and livelihoods, sustainable forest management agriculture, biodiversity conservation and other multiple core-benefits.

The opportunities presented by REDD+ can potentially create a fairer gender balance in forestry decision-making. In Malawi we have both matrilineal societies and patrilineal societies. REDD+ represents an opportunity to involve women and offer a greater participation in society, and also to enhance the benefits that women get from REDD+. With regard to benefits it is about the access and control of benefits, e.g. secure forest land tenure from REDD+ due to the need to consider women’s contributions in REDD+ implementation.

During discussions for developing the National REDD+ Strategies – Africa, gender mainstreaming was on the table. This will also help to enable even better gender balance. Specifically with the inclusion of gender-sensitive safeguards in the development of national REDD+ programmes in order to develop a gender-transformative strategy so that the new paradigm specifically contributes to the advancement of gender equality while safeguarding women’s rights, thereby contributing to climate change solutions. In addition, use of the affirmative action to ensure gender balance in REDD+ Academy. The tools designed for training delivery should integrate gender. We also need gender balance indicators for participation as well as impact of REDD+ activities — for both women and men.


Stella GamaBio: Stella Gama is the REDD+ focal point for Malawi at the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining. Ms. Gama discussed gender mainstreaming while participating in the UN-REDD Programme Workshop “Regional South-South Exchange – Africa: Developing National REDD+ Strategies” Workshop, being convened in Nairobi at UNEP, 14-17 October 2014.  View workshop agenda.


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