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Harnessing multi-purpose productive landscapes for integrated climate and development goals

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By Peter Holmgren, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) welcomes the ratification and early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. This is a major step towards effective global climate action. We also welcome the recent progress on REDD+ results based payments at the Green Climate Fund.

The land sector will be key in achieving the well below 2 or 1.5 degree goal agreed in Paris and this is clearly reflected in the long term goal of net zero emissions, Article 5 and the Preamble of the Agreement. This role however is not limited to that of forests or agriculture in isolation, but across the landscape. It will be the actions that are taken on the ground by smallholder farmers, local communities, small to medium business and other non-state as well as State actors that will drive the outcomes concerning climate. Climate mitigation and adaptation will inevitably be a co benefit of the actions taken across the landscape.

We urge world leaders to emphasize integrated solutions that harness ecosystem services derived from intact, productive and adaptive landscapes, and to move away from the business-as-usual rhetoric of forest (or ecosystem) conversion for development. Integrating these objectives harmoniously in a complex world requires approaches that are based in science, are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible, and take the needs of all stakeholders into account through open, fair and equitable participation, and that are rooted in recognition of rights.

Uganda, 2008. ©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil
©Center For International Forestry Research/Douglas Sheil

Our experience studying REDD+ over 6 years shows that there are no lasting climate solutions involving tropical forests if the livelihoods of the people in those forests are not sustained or improved – global environmental sustainability requires local economic sustainability. While action at the international level is important, international climate action meets the requirements of the world’s forest dependent communities when implemented on the ground.

Turning to the negotiations in Marrakesh, we are concerned that the international climate community was unable to come to an agreement on concrete next steps related to the agriculture agenda item. It is essential that moving forward, to implement the Paris Agreement and achieve the much needed transformational change, an approach that addresses agriculture as a major driver of deforestation, whilst putting in place measures at the international level to ensure food security and protect rights will be essential.

We welcome the road map that has been agreed in Marrakesh as an important step forward in terms of developing the rule-book to ensure the Paris Agreement is implemented. We hope to see the completion of this important work by 2018, in particular on topics concerning accounting for nationally determined contributions, adaptation communications, transparency and compliance. We hope this work will encourage parties to put in place the much-needed steps to increase their ambition. In this work, world leaders should place importance on the use of science and evidence as key to assessing and monitoring the performance of NDCs in policy and practice, across multiple sectors and levels of government.

We encourage countries to revise their NDCs to enhance ambition and address the operationalization of the agreed climate objectives, and doing so within multifunctional landscape objectives, clear strategy plans and actionable roadmaps, unambiguous designation of accountability, and effective participation of all sectors and levels of governments. This will require collaboration with non-state actors (from the corporate sectors to civil society) across those sectors, with enhanced transparency arrangements, while striving to avoid negative social and environmental impacts, especially on smallholder farmers and rural and indigenous communities.

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  • Reflections on COP22 and gender

Reflections on COP22 and gender

Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
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By Markus Ihalainen, originally published on CIFOR’s Forests News

Thanks to lobbying efforts by gender equality advocacy groups, the recent climate talks in Marrakesh yielded a significant decision that extended the mandate of the Lima Work Program on Gender (LWPG) over the next three years.

The two-year work program – first adopted at COP20 in Lima – contains a two-fold objective of: 1) Enhancing the gender-balance in the negotiations and 2) Providing guidance to Parties on gender-responsive climate policy.

Actions under the program included trainings for delegates on gender-responsive climate policy, capacity building for women delegates, and developing guidelines for implementing gender considerations in climate change activities.

While the extent to which the LWPG has achieved its objectives is debatable, it has opened up a space for more specific discussions and recommendations with respect to enhancing the gender-responsiveness of various policies and mechanisms under the UNFCCC. The decision to extend the mandate of the work program was thus received with much appreciation by gender equality advocates at COP22.

Here’s a look at some key dimensions of this decision in the context of the broader debates around gender and climate change.

Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Marco Simola for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


One of the criticisms of the previous iteration of the LWPG is that despite its mandate, it “failed to articulate work on gender-responsive climate policy in relation to broader international obligations to human rights and gender equality”. This, in turn, allowed for a fair amount of confusion with respect to what ‘gender-responsive climate policy’ actually means.

It is thus positive that the preamble to the new decision maintains the ‘importance of coherence between gender-responsive climate policies … and the provisions of international instruments and outcomes’, including the Beijing Declaration, the Convention of Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and now the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What this text actually means for policy design, implementation and monitoring remains unclear. It is, however, essential that the above provision guide the work under the new iteration of the LWPG, as it opens up a crucial space for conceptualizing the role of gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate policy and action in a much broader sense.

Instead of viewing empowerment or equality as a vehicle for achieving other policy objectives, this framing allows us to flip things around and look at how various policies can impact equality or empowerment across a much wider set of political, economic, social and cultural indicators.

As such, this ‘rights-based’ framing departs from popular ‘business case’ arguments, which assert that women’s empowerment will lead to better economic, environmental or social outcomes. A rights-based argument does not ignore women’s contributions to promoting development and conservation; however, it does not make the granting of rights contingent on how effectively women contribute to the latter.

A strong rights-based framework is especially important now that policies and programs are increasingly aligning themselves to the SDG framework. Anchoring ‘women’s empowerment’ in broader international conventions could help mitigate the unfortunate tendency to water down empowerment to tokenistic participation in meetings simply to allow policies and programs to ‘hit as many SDGs as possible’.

Instead of simply assuming win-wins between social, economic and environmental objectives, a rights-based approach also allows us to have a much clearer and more honest conversation about leveraging synergies – as well as reconciling potential tensions – between the different SDGs.

Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Tomas Munita for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).


In addition to a continued mandate, the new decision also requests the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) to ‘develop a gender action plan in order to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UNFCCC process’.

While the development of a gender action plan under the UNFCCC was not a given, it follows the trajectory of the other Rio conventions, which already have such plans in place. The priority areas for the action plan still needs to be defined, but this decision invites Parties, observers and other stakeholders to provide inputs to the formulation of the action plan.

A collaboratively developed, comprehensive Gender Action Plan (GAP) could prove useful for coordinating the efforts of various bodies and stakeholders, channeling funding towards specific actions outlined under the GAP, and for developing salient indicators for evaluating the gender-responsiveness of various climate policies.

However, it is important to note that the content of the GAP is to be defined over the coming year. So given the urgency of beginning the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the immediate priority in terms of gender equality in climate policy is still to ensure that all Parties to the Agreement take substantial actions on the national level towards safeguarding women’s rights and enhancing the gender-responsiveness of the climate policies and actions as outlined in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).

This is particularly important given the fact that out of 188 INDCs submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat prior to COP21, only 63 submissions included specific references to women or gender. A closer look shows that these references are often very general and superficial, mostly just outlining women as ‘vulnerable populations’.

It is also noteworthy that all of the 63 INDCs mentioning ‘women’ or ‘gender’ came from developing countries. Despite high-flying rhetoric, there seems to be a tendency among donor countries to view gender-responsive climate policy mostly as a priority for developing countries.

Concerns are being raised over whether donor commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment actually translate into concrete funding. A recent OECD DAC report estimated that investments in women’s economic empowerment remained unchanged in the period from 2007-2012, and represented only two percent of total bilateral aid. This is a significant concern, especially as many commitments in developing countries’ INDCs remain conditional on the availability of funding.

During a discussion forum on gender held at the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, panelist Lorena Aguilar, Senior Advisor of the Gender Programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), stated that 21 countries have developed specific climate change and gender action plans (ccGAP). Yet, she warned, a lack of funds is hindering many governments from implementing these plans.

To enhance the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies, it is thus crucial that the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism – including the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility – are held accountable vis-à-vis the gender policies that both entities now have in place.

It is reassuring that the COP22 decision requests financial entities to provide information on the ‘integration of gender consideration in all aspects of their work’. However, it contains no references to the allocation for financial resources towards the implementation of gender-responsive climate action. Issues around financial responsibilities, targets and accountabilities thus remain largely unresolved.

At the same GLF forum, Eleanor Blomstrom, Co-Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), stressed the need to improve gender-responsive tracking and monitoring of finance for enhancing – and enforcing – the implementation of gender-responsive climate policies at the national level.

Ugwono Pauline plants Gnetum (okok) in the village of Minwoho, Lekié, Center Region, Cameroon.   Photo by Ollivier Girard for Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR


While it is important to monitor what policies are in place and to track their implementation, it is arguably even more important to understand the impact of these policies on the lives of local women and men. Policy processes removed from local realities are less likely to yield transformative results on the ground.

CIFOR’s research shows that climate change vulnerability tends to be highly contextual and depends on various socioeconomic, cultural and environmental variables. Despite this, gender is still primarily tackled as a men-versus-women dichotomy in climate change studies, according to a recent CIFOR paper.

One of the key hopes of CIFOR gender experts at COP22 was thus to contribute to a more nuanced picture of gender and climate change. Understanding that the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities of women and men are structured by various societal power relations – and not just by virtue of their sex – can help enhance the responsiveness of climate policies. In order to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, it is vital that such ‘intersectional’ thinking is translated into implementation processes and impact assessment tools and instruments.

This requires that the voices of local people be accounted for in policy processes, particularly when it comes to adaptation, says Houria Djoudi, a scientist at CIFOR who was a panelist at the GLF event. Women in impacted communities are not sitting around waiting for international agreements to come in place – they use various strategies to adapt to climate change every day. However, rural women often lack a voice in national policy processes. As a result, many locally grounded, potentially up-scalable adaptation and mitigation initiatives risk going unnoticed, or replaced by top-down, inflexible programmatic responses with little local ownership.

It is therefore good to see the new decision taken in Morocco encourage Parties to recognize the value of grassroots women’s participation in gender-responsive climate action at all levels.

However, much remains to be done to move beyond lip-service towards meaningfully integrating local-level action in national climate policy and action, and to ensure that adequate capacities and resources are in place at the national and sub-national levels to support and scale up successful initiatives.

For more information on this topic, please contact Markus Ihalainen at [email protected].
This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.
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  • FTA event coverage: 5 ways forestry research contributed to global climate discussions in Marrakesh

FTA event coverage: 5 ways forestry research contributed to global climate discussions in Marrakesh

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Photo: CIFOR

Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Global climate negotiations concluded last week with renewed commitment to action on limiting global temperature rise and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

From 7-19 November, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, hosted the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), as well as the twelfth session of the of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP12) and the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1).

The Paris Agreement entered into force just days before the event, on 4 November, with 112 of the 197 Parties to the Convention now having ratified the accord.

As anticipated, land use and forestry had a key role to play in negotiations on the new climate and development agenda. Research in these areas will continue to be vital to support sound decision-making and action toward a sustainable, low-carbon future.

Here are five ways research on forests and landscapes contributed to last week’s climate discussions in Marrakesh:

1. Enhancing transparency

Success for the Paris Agreement in practice depends on transparent measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of progress on meeting its goals. Article 13 of the agreement establishes an ‘enhanced transparency framework’ for states to report progress relevant to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

However, this raises questions about the capacity of state and non-state actors in accurate carbon accounting, and about how to monitor, measure, report and verify non-carbon aspects, including human rights and other social and environmental dimensions.

In an official COP22 side event, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) together with Wageningen University & Research and partners, asked the question, ‘What is essential for transparency under the Paris Agreement?’

Research conducted under the Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (GCS REDD+) was presented to support the development of more transparent approaches to MRV, including a role for civil society and other actors in independent monitoring, and ways to track and verify non-state actor and corporate pledges.

2. Reviewing REDD+ performance

In another side event, CIFOR, the University of Helsinki and the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF) hosted a discussion on the issues of REDD+ performance.

Presenting further GCS REDD+ research, CIFOR scientists and colleagues shared findings on ‘Measuring and monitoring performance, and managing risks in REDD+’.

In discussion, subjectivities were revealed in the science of designing effective REDD+ policies and measuring their performance. CIFOR scientist Amy Duchelle highlighted the inherent tensions between carbon and non-carbon goals under REDD+, while senior scientist Grace Wong questioned risks to equity under REDD+ as a results-based payment approach.

Non-state actors, including international corporations, continued to make voluntary commitments to reduce their climate impact as part of the Non-state Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA).

Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), one of only two corporations under NAZCA to directly own or manage land, is taking a community engagement approach to its commitment to an Integrated Farming and Forestry System (IFFS) program, launched at COP21.

At COP22, APP hosted a session on ‘Putting people at the center of development: Climate-friendly, forest-based livelihoods’. Scientist Amy Duchelle brought to the discussion her analysis of REDD+ social safeguards and subnational initiatives.

4. Highlighting blue carbon

Also at the Indonesia Pavilion, Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso brought his research findings to the Indonesian Blue Carbon Dialogue, hosted by CIFOR together with the Indonesian Ministries for Environment and Forestry, and Marine Affairs and Fisheries.

The dialogue highlighted the often-overlooked role of blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves and seagrass meadows, in measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Wetland ecosystems have enormous potential for carbon storage – up to 20 times greater than terrestrial forest ecosystems – and maritime countries like Indonesia are starting to pay attention. Several calls were made at COP22 for blue carbon to be integrated into more NDCs under the Paris Agreement.

As the discussion showed, there is already plenty of information available on blue carbon stocks – the challenge now is to put the research into action as policy.

5. Responding to gender

Research on the intersections of gender equality and climate change was brought forward by CIFOR scientists in a couple of sessions arranged together with the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, including UN Women, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO).

Discussions in these sessions centered on how climate policy can be more gender-sensitive, gender-responsive – or even become gender-transformative.

A ‘Skill-sharing session on monitoring of gender-responsive climate policy’ brought forth research on possible synergies or tradeoffs between gender equality and other objectives for climate policy, while a panel discussion with the same partners looked at ‘Gender equality in climate policy: Translating global commitments to national policy’.

CIFOR scientists Anne Larson and Markus Ihalainen shared findings on what gender-responsive climate policy looks like in practice and in action, while Houria Djoudi highlighted adaptation taking place at a local level, and the co-benefits and tradeoffs that occur.

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  • FTA event coverage: ICRAF calls for upscaling of agroforestry to tackle climate change

FTA event coverage: ICRAF calls for upscaling of agroforestry to tackle climate change

A perfect example of eco-efficient agriculture, provided by a CIPAV silvo-pastoral system at Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
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A perfect example of eco-efficient agriculture, provided by a CIPAV silvo-pastoral system at Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT
A perfect example of eco-efficient agriculture, provided by a CIPAV silvo-pastoral system at Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia. Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT

Originally posted at ICRAF’s Agroforestry World Blog

The Paris climate change agreement came into force on 4 November 2016—an unprecedented event. And the COP22 climate talks here in Marrakech have been all about turning that agreement into action on the ground. The big question for all, is: how do we reach the triple win of development, adaptation and mitigation without degrading our natural resource base?

Trees in forests and on agricultural landscapes are central to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and to delivering on the Paris Agreement. And they are central to delivering vital livelihood benefits and income, both for the rural population and, via the provision of a diversity of products and services, for urban consumers.

Agroforestry—agriculture with trees—is also instrumental to reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to eradicate hunger, reduce poverty, provide affordable and clean energy, protect life on land, reverse land degradation and combat climate change. Because of the carbon sequestration capacity of trees in biomass and soils, agroforestry can contribute greatly to assist countries to reach their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is supporting national governments in Africa, Asia and Latin America in developing the tools, knowledge, options and capacity needed to successfully implement sustainable agricultural solutions. We call for:

  • Scaling up agroforestry as a solution for climate change adaptation and mitigation via Nationally Determined Contributions;
  • Raising the investment in providing scientific evidence of agriculture’s contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • Reducing land degradation and deforestation through agriculture with trees;
  • Including sustainably produced bioenergy to the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative’s portfolio of options to end energy poverty.

We also have great optimism as private financing emerges to enable such investments to contribute to public goods around climate change, sustainable environmental stewardship and farmers’ livelihoods. In particular, the Livelihoods Fund and Tropical Landscape Finance Facility are showing tremendous leadership in making it happen at large scale.

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  • UNEP’s Erik Solheim: ‘Climate no longer a cost, but an opportunity’

UNEP’s Erik Solheim: ‘Climate no longer a cost, but an opportunity’

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31023097566_bd650cabd3_zBy Leona Liu, originally posted at CIFOR’s Forests News

At the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Marrakesh, held on the sidelines of COP22, Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), spoke to the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) about embracing the landscape approach.

UNEP hosted a discussion forum on Unlocking private finance in forests, sustainable land use and restoration at the event, which addressed the current finance gap i.e. the fact that the demand for capital to restore landscapes is bigger than the supply, and asked how new products and mechanisms can help leverage public funding with private finance.

“The most exciting development at COP22 is the new role of business,” said Solheim. “The transformation of climate from being seen as a cost to an enormous opportunity for new green jobs and business profits is so hopeful.”

Hear more from Solheim in the video below:

What do “landscapes” mean to you, and how do you think UNEP is approaching “landscapes”?

First of all, landscapes mean beauty. There are so many fantastic beautiful landscapes all over the planet. In political terms, to me, it means the big picture. Not just focusing on agriculture or on the forests, just on biodiversity, or just on climate, but you take all this into one discussion so that you can ‘kill two birds with one stone.’

What does the Global Landscapes Forum provide as a platform or audience?

An enormous opportunity to resolve these problems. How can we protect the forests of the world, which are fantastically beautiful and home to orangutans and gorillas in Africa? And protect biodiversity, which is enormous and critical for climate?

You can only do that if the farmers also see the opportunity for themselves to prosper. The landscape focus is a way of bringing together the two biggest issues of our time: How to rapidly develop and bring people out of poverty, but at the same time protect the beauty of the planet.

What have you observed at COP22 that shows signs of progress following COP21?

The most exciting thing is the new role of business because up until recently, business always thought climate was costly. It was about pushing the bill to others. Now we see this as an enormous opportunity to create new jobs.

With solar prices coming down, we can invest largely in renewable energy. We have the biggest solar plant anywhere in the world right here in Morocco. Also, you see mass transit systems, new metros every year, that the Chinese are building in Shanghai and Beijing and many other cities. You see tourism which can benefit from the beauty of the elephants, gorillas or the orangutans that can both be environmentally friendly and can provide millions of jobs globally.

The transformation of climate from being seen as a cost to an enormous opportunity for new green jobs and business profits is so hopeful.

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  • FTA event coverage: 2016 Global Landscapes Forum will go big

FTA event coverage: 2016 Global Landscapes Forum will go big

Capturing the spirit of the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR
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Capturing the spirit of the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR
Capturing the spirit of the 2016 Global Landscapes Forum. Photo: Pilar Valbuena/CIFOR

Under the motto “Climate Action for Sustainable Development”, this year’s Global Landscapes Forum again positioned itself as the key event of the land use and development community. The GLF is also the biggest event that is co-funded by the the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Coordinating partners are the Center for International Forestry Research, CIAT, UNEP, the World Bank, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) and Credit Suisse, more than 40 partners contributed in other ways.

The big news this year came from the German government that announced their commitment to the Global Landscapes Forum by hosting the event in the UN city of Bonn. The German Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation have joined forces to support the GLF for the next four years. The platform for global action will meet in Bonn for the first time in 2017.

“GLF is doubtlessly THE global platform leading the debate on sustainable land use & forestry.” Jochen Flasbarth, State Secretary

The vision of the GLF is to reach one billion people with the vision of sustainable landscapes and the message that everything is connected. The event unites business, government, civil society and indigenous leaders engaged in sustainable development solutions.

Some 600 people participated in this year’s Forum in Marrakesh, on the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP22. More than 5000 followed the event online. Participants and viewers came from 95 countries.

The sessions most closely related to the CGIAR FTA were (more videos to follow)

How to walk the talk: Promoting gender equality in national climate policy and action (co-hosted by FTA partner CIFOR)

From commitment to action – developing strategies to operationalize integrated landscape approaches (co-hosted by FTA partners CIFOR, World Agroforestry Centre together with SIWI)

Unexplored big wins for climate change through landscape restoration (co-hosted by FTA partner CIAT together with WLE)

Climate, business and landscapes: Mobilizing large-scale investment for smallholder farmers (co-hosted by FTA partner CIFOR, IFAD and SNV)

Policy learning from REDD+ for zero deforestation and restoration initiatives (co-hosted by FTA partner CIFOR together with UN-REDD)

Where the rubber hits the road for achieving climate goals: Non-state actors and subnational governments in sustainable landscapes (hosted by FTA partner CIFOR)

Click to watch the video from the session

The Discussion Forum addressed, based on research under the CGIAR FTA, in interaction with partners, the challenges and opportunities that come up when non-state actors such as the private sector and subnational government actors such as provinces engage in efforts to tackle climate change on the ground.

The presentations were based on

  • comparative research from 54 sites of land-use change in 11 subnational landscapes in Peru, Indonesia, Mexico, Vietnam and Tanzania;
  • in-depth studies of the design of monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) systems in Peru and Mexico; and
  • research on private sector commitments e.g. through the NAZCA platform.

Anne Larson: What we know about global climate goals and local realities – GLF 2016 Marrakesh

Click to watch Anne Larson's introduction
Click to watch Anne Larson’s introduction

Watch all the available videos from GLF 2016 here

Take a look at the presentations here

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  • FTA event coverage: Credit Suisse, CIAT and IFPRI endorse Global Landscapes Forum

FTA event coverage: Credit Suisse, CIAT and IFPRI endorse Global Landscapes Forum

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Mark Burrows, Vice Chairman at Credit Suisse, IFPRI’s Director General Shenggen Fan and CIAT’s Director General Ruben Echeverria give their endorsement to the long-term future of the Global Landscapes Forum.

Through scientific input, capacity-building programs, online engagement, thematic symposiums and global events, GLF aspires to introduce one billion people by 2020 to the landscape approach – and connect them in embracing it. The GLF is more than just a series of events: it is a dynamic platform with which diverse stakeholders can collaborate to create a more sustainable world.

See the full event coverage at http://www.landscapes.org/glf-marrakesh/videos/

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  • A taste of COP22: A midway summary of the week’s global climate negotiations

A taste of COP22: A midway summary of the week’s global climate negotiations

Barry Aliman, 24 years old, bicycles with her baby to fetch water for her family, Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso. Climate change will affect rainfall patterns and the availability of water. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
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Barry Aliman, 24 years old, bicycles with her baby to fetch water for her family, Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso. Climate change will affect rainfall patterns and the availability of water. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Barry Aliman, 24 years old, bicycles with her baby to fetch water for her family, Sorobouly village near Boromo, Burkina Faso. Climate change will affect rainfall patterns and the availability of water. Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

By Stephen Leonard, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Climate negotiations are now progressing into the final days in Marrakesh with a handful of outcomes established already. The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is now into its second week, with negotiations split across several tracks.

Here’s a taste of what’s been on the table this past week in Morocco.

Let’s start with the alphabet soup: The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) is dealing with issues such as guidance for future Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), transparency, global stocktake, adaptation communications, and compliance.

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) is dealing with the technical issues associated with the new Article 6 mechanism on market and non-market approaches, as well as agriculture. The first meeting of the new permanent body under the Paris Agreement — known as the CMA — has now also opened this week.

Climate change will affect agricultural production. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR
Climate change will affect agricultural production. Photo: Daniel Tiveau/CIFOR


The opening of the CMA is an important development here in Marrakesh, because this is occurring as a result of the rapid and record-breaking entry into force of the Paris Agreement and will be where the ‘rule book’ for the implementation of the Paris Agreement will be adopted.

At the COP21 in Paris, there were a series of decisions expected to be finalized for adoption at the first session of the CMA, known as CMA 1. Due to the early entry into force of the agreement, CMA 1 is now happening much sooner than expected.

Obviously, these rules are not completed and will require a few years to develop — the CMA will open in Marrakesh, and it will determine its mode of work moving forward into 2017 and 2018.


In the APA, these negotiations have developed a series of roadmaps and work programs, for THE provision of submissions, expert roundtables and workshops on several topics.

Some additional sessions will occur early in 2017 to keep the technical work moving. These work programs will focus on the APA agenda items: guidance for mitigation and NDCs, accounting, adaptation communications, transparency, and compliance amongst other things.

In addition to the Roadmap that has been agreed amongst the Parties, there has been a very rich exchange of views on substance that forms a body of material under development that will inform future negotiations.

Measuring carbon stock: Mangrove forests together with peat swamp forests are one of the largest carbon stock holding ecosystems. Photo: Daniel Murdiyarso/CIFOR

Discussions on mitigation, features and accounting of NDCs relate to what will be voluntary contributions and what may be mandatory. There will be guidance on accounting and environmental integrity, and avoiding double-counting has been highlighted as key areas.

There may be different levels of guidance for accounting to allow for flexibility for country capacities. Accounting for NDCs will of course be a relevant space for land-use accounting to become one of the major issues. An expert roundtable will be held on 6 May 2017, which is open only to Parties and not to observers.

Discussions on adaptation communications as a component of NDCs have been focused on issues such as timing of communications, purpose of the communications, and how these communications link to other processes. An expert workshop will also be held on 6 May prior to the mid-year UNFCCC meeting together with a round of submissions on the topic due on 30 March 2017.

On the topic of transparency, again, a process will be put in place concerning submissions, technical papers and workshops. It is clear that we are talking about transparency of ‘actions’ and ‘support’, and the submissions will focus on areas, such as how the new system can build on the current system, and what is actually needed over and above what is there.

An important consideration here on the issue of forests and land use relates to the role of social and environmental considerations in the new transparency framework, as the current system is essentially focused on measuring, reporting and verification (MRV) of carbon.

The topic of global stocktake (GST) remains contentious, as there continues to be uncertainty around what the actual outcomes of the GST will be. Parties remain concerned it will become a top-down approach to force countries to increase their ambition.

This is also linked with the upcoming Facilitative Dialogue, which will be held in 2018, which is a bit like a trial run of the GST to be held in 2023. It is widely accepted that these processes need to be designed to inform and inspire countries to increase ambition and enhance their climate actions, however just how this is to be done will be the subject of ongoing negotiations.

In the lead up to the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, countries will have the benefit of the special report currently underway by the IPCC concerning the 1.5 degree temperature goal agreed in Paris.


The SBSTA is doing work of high significance related to market and non-market approaches, and the new ‘mechanism’ under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

The Article 6 discussions are split out into three tracks, the first being more broadly what the mechanism is about, the second being how it relates to markets, and the third being how it relates to non-market approaches.

This new ‘mechanism’ is intended to take over from the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and whether it includes REDD+ as both a market and non-market context remains uncertain.

The forest carbon trading debate is occurring in the market track, whereas in the non-market track discussions are moving in the direction of how to ensure finance for those countries unable to access, or unwilling to access, markets.

Due to the level of contention around the markets issue, and the complexities associated with achieving phase one of REDD+, many countries will need finance via non-market approaches.

It is also worth mentioning that the joint mitigation-adaptation approach to REDD+ is also considered a non-market approach. This is perhaps one of the more interesting discussions related to the role of REDD+, especially in the light of the decision by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has also not yet decided to include forest carbon.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is also working to complete its results-based payments framework, and the topic of what to do with REDD+ credits (if established) — whether to retire them or whether they can be traded — will no doubt come up too in future meetings later this year and early 2017.

The arguments for carbon trading and offsetting remain the same. Those in favor of markets continue to argue the importance of generating finance and stimulating private sector investments in favor of forests, and the arguments against continue to revolve around concerns related to rights, the commodification of nature and non-permanence of forest carbon sequestration.

However, now new dimensions enter the debate where we are confronted with a shrinking carbon budget, a 1.5-degree target and a desire on the part of many countries to retain their own emissions reductions to apply against their NDCs.

More specifically on REDD+, there was a consultation event held by the GCF which was very well attended, standing room only. This was interesting, with examples related to progress toward achieving results provided by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Brazil, the Norwegian International Forest Climate Initiative (NICFI) and the KfW Development Bank. The GCF will now hold further workshops and consultations to develop their results-based payments system.

As with all other items of this COP, the SBSTA outcome here will be procedural, with a series of submissions and workshops going into 2017. The link to the draft SBSTA decisions can be found here (see agenda item 12). This is however one of the more unfortunate outcomes as observers have been excluded from participation in this round of submissions.

There has also been an agenda item on agriculture considered here under the SBSTA, where there continues to be a deadlock between developed countries and developing countries over the question of the role of agriculture in mitigation, as well as what to do now that the two-year work program has been completed.

The outcome here is basically to continue working on the topic at the next SBSTA meeting, but it is safe to say the issue has not progressed here at all. See agenda item 7 to find out more.


Overall, the conference has been slow-moving and has been overshadowed by the U.S. election, which has created much uncertainty, but at the same time has created opportunities for other countries to show their resolve get on with the job and keep working on implementing the Paris Agreement. Many countries have already made statements that they remain committed to implementing the agreement.

As the session moved into a gear change with the High Level sessions commencing, well- attended by Ministers and Heads of State, the expectations are that the outcome of COP22 will be a clear indication from world leaders that there continues to be global momentum to address climate change and that we now have a clear way forward with a much-needed roadmap to put in place the ‘rule book’ to implement the Paris Agreement.

This blog is related to the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

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  • Four unexplored big wins in agriculture: tackling climate change through landscape restoration

Four unexplored big wins in agriculture: tackling climate change through landscape restoration

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Photo: CIAT

By Georgina Smith, originally published at CIAT’s blog

Four solutions lie in how we farm our food and treat our landscapes: this session aims to throw light on some of the tools that can tackle climate change head-on.

During this session, we call on the audience at the on-going 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco to consider these:

The first big win: trees on agricultural land could sink four times more carbon. Recent studies show that carbon sequestered by trees on agricultural land is not well accounted for. If it was, researchers argue in this study: “Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets,” total carbon estimates from agricultural land could be more than four times higher than they are.

Yet while carbon stored and sequestered by forests is widely recognized and land cover changes well monitored, carbon stored by trees on agricultural land needs to be measured better. Growing more trees on farm land could be a fast and easy route to increasing carbon sequestration, above and below ground, with a myriad of other benefits.

That entails mapping landscapes to guide decision makers about where to invest in certain management practices over others, and policies that enhance carbon sequestration on agricultural land to benefit farmers and society as a whole.


The second big win is that carbon can be absorbed back into the soil. The stock of carbon in the soil is twice as high as that in the atmosphere. Small changes in soil carbon can have big impact on atmospheric carbon.

This session discusses new research from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture and The Nature Conservancy, presenting an initiative that could offset all CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning that are not already absorbed by oceans and land.

Data and maps show the most up-to-date soil properties from World Soil Information and Food and Agriculture Organization and illustrate where carbon could be sequestered if practices to enhance soil organic matter were widely adopted.

Since agricultural soils, already managed actively, have lost significant amounts of carbon, they could also re-absorb carbon based on soil type and climate. What’s needed are site-specific tools for decision makers presenting the bigger picture on where soils are degraded, and where to invest to improve soil carbon stocks.

A third big win looks at protecting wetland and peatland ecosystems

These ecosystems contain around 20% of global soil organic carbon stocks. But tropical peat fires are a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, producing transboundary “hazes” impacting human health, regional economies and ecosystems.

Huge opportunities to mitigate climate change lie in protecting these lands. But they are often under threat from commercial and development interests. Combined with contemporary agricultural practices on peatlands – land clearance, burning, drainage and fertilization – these landscapes and the carbon they store are at risk. How can they be climate-proofed?

The fourth big win shows how improving grasslands can provide a triple-climate-win. Brachiaria grasses sequester significant amounts of soil organic carbon – conservative estimates indicate a 2-3 fold higher annual sequestration rate than in other annual cropping systems.

A growing body of research shows that some varieties of brachiaria reduce N2O emissions from soils, a phenomenon known as biological nitrification inhibition. New research also finds 40% more milk and tens of millions of dollars in revenue are possible for African farmers adopting drought resilient brachiaria varieties.

Wider adoption of brachiaria grasses to improve grasslands has a tremendous potential to mitigate climate – especially in sub-Saharan Africa. But further research is needed to investigate commercial-quality seed in Africa, and tackle climate-related challenges like new pests and diseases.

Unexplored big wins for climate change through landscape restoration,” is a side event at the Global Landscape Forum, on Wednesday November 16th, Ourika room, Kenzi Club Agdal Medina, Marrakesh, 11.00 – 12.30. The session is co-hosted by CIAT and the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. 

For more information and next steps on action read our four briefs:

Big win 1: trees on agricultural land could sink four times more carbon.

Big win 2: Carbon can be absorbed back into the soil

Big win 3: Protecting Wetland and Peatland ecosystems 

Big win 4: improving grasslands

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  • Peter Holmgren: Sustainable solutions to climate change lie in the landscape

Peter Holmgren: Sustainable solutions to climate change lie in the landscape

Look beyond carbon emissions to find solutions to climate change. Photo: Ian Britton/Flickr
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Look beyond carbon emissions to find solutions to climate change. Photo: Ian Britton/Flickr
Look beyond carbon emissions to find solutions to climate change. Photo: Ian Britton/Flickr

Originally published at Thomson Reuters Foundation and CIFOR’s Forests News

If we are to find sustainable solutions to climate change, we have to look at the bigger picture.

And in that picture climate change – and carbon emissions – aren’t everything. Neither are biodiversity, water, forests, agriculture or coastal habitats and oceans, gender or communities, education, poverty and inequality or energy. In the big picture, the picture that counts, they are all important.

Saying this doesn’t make me a climate sceptic or a climate denier, or even a climate cynic. Far from it. But as the world gathers for COP22 in Marrakesh, a year after the Paris Agreement, it is clear to me that if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and meet our climate targets, we have to find a new way of doing things.

The overwhelming tendency, the modus operandi of development, is to operate in silos, or compartments, of our own disciplines, our own organisations, our own ministries and our own sectors, all of us working toward our own targets of success.

Focus on the landscape...Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR
Focus on the landscape…Photo: Louis Putzel/CIFOR

An agricultural ministry is told to increase production of a certain crop, and if they have to clear 25 percent of the nation’s forests and all the biodiversity within, roll over indigenous groups, so be it. Climate change – let’s leave that to the Environment Ministry. Campaigners and non-governmental organisations often tend to stay in their own silo too – focusing on a single issue with little regard for the relevance of any others. That has to change.

We have to look at each SDG in context with the others, and approach them as a whole. We have to tear down the walls that separate sectors, because they do not represent the situation on the ground anywhere. In the real world, there are broad landscapes within which different interests, demands, objectives and targets compete.

Approaching solutions holistically is at the heart of what is known as the landscapes approach and the global movement that is arising around it. The term is not known beyond development circles but it should be, because every stretch of land or sea touched by mankind makes up the millions of landscapes on this planet.

The approach is neither prescriptive nor inflexible. It is not top-down. It embraces compromise. It accepts that in any dispute about how to manage resources there will be a need for arbitration between different demands – small-scale farmers, big agro-business, international agreements, national and local governments, conservationists.

...and on the people in it. Photo: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR
…and on the people in it. Photo: Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR

The objective is to seek multiple measurable benefits from every action and investment in a landscape – more food, more income, greater equality, and a healthy environment. It assumes there will be trade-offs with no absolute winners and no absolute losers.

Enter the Global Landscapes Forum, the biggest event under the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.

Three years ago, a small group of organisations including the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme, together with my organisation, the Centre for International Forestry Research, created a platform on the margins of the UN’s climate change meetings where every sector and discipline could connect, through the lens of the landscapes approach, the climate agenda and the 2015 SDGs.

Today GLF is taking on a life of its own. Last year, more than 3,000 people from 105 countries – everyone from California Governor Jerry Brown to a tribal leader from Borneo – joined us in Paris. Its sixth gathering is being held in Marrakesh on November 16.

It has grown into a global community of several hundred organisations, with tens of thousands of people from every continent, including scientists, lawyers, bankers, indigenous and community leaders, farmers and foresters, NGO personnel, journalists and policy makers, actively sharing their experiences, research, initiatives and knowledge. In short, we have created a global conversation on building sustainable landscapes that is changing the way we think, connect and act.

Already we have received pledges to restore 148 million hectares of degraded land from countries all over the world. The next target is to increase that to 400 million hectares – and to devise the action plans needed to implement and measure them.

Our vision is to reach far beyond expert communities and connect and inspire a billion people to join us by 2020. We believe this is vital not just for reshaping the climate and development agenda, but for building a world that is sustainable, more prosperous and more equitable.

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