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  • Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Halting deforestation is ‘everyone’s fight’ 

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR
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A paddy field and palm oil plantation area is seen from above in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Photo by N. Sujana/CIFOR

Halting and reversing deforestation are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris agreement on climate change.

Within SDG 15 on life on land, Target 15.2 calls for halting deforestation by 2020, while the UN Strategic Plan for Forests (UNSPF) adopted in 2017 by the UN General Assembly calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by 3 percent worldwide by 2030.

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests organized a conference titled “Working across sectors to halt deforestation and increase forest area” on Feb. 20-22 to discuss with various actors and stakeholders the possible ways of meeting these targets.

The conference aimed to provide substantive input to the High Level Political Forum (HLPF), the United Nations’ central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs, that will this year have a particular focus on SDG 15. The objective was thus to identify ways to help halt deforestation and increase forest cover and to engage actors in this objective. The chairs’ summary of the conference has now been released.

At the conference in Rome, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) led the organization of a session on stakeholders, and coorganized with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) a session on science and research. Scientists from FTA also participated in various other sessions, on areas such as landscape management, agroforestry, restoration, sustainable agriculture, governance and finance.

“The role of different stakeholders” session was jointly hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), IUFRO and FTA. It was grounded in the fact that most drivers of deforestation lie outside the forest sector, are rooted in wider social and economic issues, and are related to the interaction of numerous factors at local and global levels. Deforestation and forest degradation, in turn, affect a wide range of actors, threatening incomes, livelihoods and ways of life for forest-dependent populations and compromising the provision of ecosystem services.

Timber production is seen in Tanzania. Photo by N. Mtimgwa/CIFOR

The session gathered an impressive set of panelists, with a considerable range of experience, while I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion. The Honorable Lamin B. Dibba, The Gambia’s Minister of Forestry, Environment, Climate Change and Natural Resources, delivered a keynote on policies implemented in The Gambia. Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Regional Vice President of Conservation International, Conservation Biodiversity’s Regional Director for Mexico and Central America and former environment minister for Costa Rica, retraced the implementation of policies to protect forests in his country.

Cécile Ndjebet built on her broad experience in civil society organizations, including as founder of the African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests (REFACOF), to recommend facilitating the engagement of all actors. Petra Meekers, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development at Musim Mas Group, explained how the private sector is increasingly concerned and engaged.

In addition, Salina Abraham, President of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) and youth coordinator for the Global Landscapes Forum emphasized, the importance of youth as a vector of innovation and change. Marco Albani, Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, and member of the Executive Committee of the World Economic Forum, highlighted the synergies between government and private sector action.

Participants emphasized the importance of having all actors involved, recognizing the crucial role of governments to ensure the coordination of policies and to create an enabling environment and mechanisms for actors to fully play their roles and engage with one another. Deforestation is a global phenomenon which requires global, regional and national efforts to address it. It calls for the coordination of efforts of all stakeholders along two dimensions: vertical along value chains; and horizontal, across scales, particularly at landscape level.

The example of Costa Rica shows the potential of effective coordination between policies, grounded on clear shared recognition of the value of natural capital. National policies and the rule of law are the basis, which require transparency and good governance.

Voluntary standards and corporate responsibility are insufficient by themselves but they can also play a role in facilitating the adoption of rules. The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering it, have thus a fundamental role at both global and national levels. Sustainable production and production (SDG 12) can strengthen this movement.

Mau Forest and tea plantations are pictured in Kenya’s Rift Valley. Photo by P. Shepherd/CIFOR

Value chains have many actors, all along the chain. It is essential to have all these actors, men and women, at the center of actions and activities. Their roles and contributions need to be properly recognized and rewarded. They need to be supported, through capacity building and financial support, so that they can engage with one another and with the private sector. There is considerable untapped potential in women, youth, and more broadly in civil society.

The private sector is increasingly willing to act, taking seriously its responsibilities. It is not always easy. It is important to have an entry point to engage with local communities, like sustainable land use, and to have the engagement of local government. There is a need for different business models. We must give back more to communities, taking into account social issues, gender dimensions, and food security and nutrition. Academia can help a lot.

The example of The Gambia shows how community management, with a return of income from forests to forests and communities, can be a powerful mechanism for sustainable forest management and rural development.

Ensuring coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms, some of which have already shown their merits. For instance, the Forest Forum in Finland has for 21 years been engaging decisionmakers not only from the forestry sector but also from connected sectors, raising awareness and learning from each other. This mechanism is now being adopted in other countries.

In various countries there are already mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors, at local, subnational and national levels. They are often linked to a clear jurisdictional level, which facilitates implementation. There are opportunities to improve their efficiency, to bring in new actors, and to give them more meaningful representation. In that regard the participation of civil society, women and youth can bring new perspectives and trigger action on the ground.

The private sector is willing to be part of these collective dynamics and can make a key contribution to the implementation of the SDGs.

From these exchanges the following key points can be deduced:

  • We need coordination of efforts between all stakeholders along value chains, and across scales, particularly at landscape level.
  • Governments play a crucial role in ensuring coordination of policies and in creating the enabling environment and the mechanisms for actors to fully engage.
  • The private sector, to answer demand, and civil society as triggering demand, have fundamental roles in shaping enabling environments at both global and national levels.
  • The different roles and contributions of all value chain actors, both men and women, need to be properly understood, recognized and rewarded. There is a considerable untapped potential in women, youth and broader civil society.
  • The private sector is increasingly willing to act, and is taking its responsibilities seriously.
  • Community management, with the return of revenues from forests to communities, can be a powerful mechanism to foster sustainable forestry management and rural development.
  • Coordination between sectors requires appropriate mechanisms. Some countries already have mechanisms to organize the participation and coordination of actors at local, subnational and national levels.
  • Private sector actors and large corporations, especially large-scale crop plantations, can act as role models in enforcing zero-deforestation commitments throughout their operations, and in taking care of environmental and social concerns.
  • To improve interactions between stakeholders, quality governance is key to genuinely confront multiple objectives and demands, agree on priority actions and align solutions informed by scientific evidence, shaping integrated zero-deforestation policies and enabling environments.

Deforestation is a problem for everyone, and fighting against deforestation is everyone’s fight. Zero-deforestation should be an essential element of SDG12 on responsible consumption and production, including outside the forest sector in food, feed and bioenergy.

By Vincent Gitz, CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) Director. 


For more details about the Halting Deforestation conference, view the conference program or watch recordings of the plenary sessions.

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

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  • Unlocking private finance for climate and sustainable development

Unlocking private finance for climate and sustainable development

Rice fields and forest plantations are integrated in the landscape in Libo County, Guizhou Province, China. Photo by Louis Putzel/CIFOR
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Wind turbines generate renewable energy in Adama, Ethiopia. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

As the challenges of climate change come into clearer focus, international initiatives such as the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals lay out ambitious targets to shift humanity’s course to a less-destructive trajectory.

But change requires financial investment as well as political will, and there’s a significant funding gap between what’s been committed and what’s actually required to achieve these aims. Private finance presents a powerful – and oft-cited – possibility to close the gap, with trillions of dollars of investment apparently available to be deployed for the purpose.

So why isn’t the money coming in yet? Given the nature of the private sector under capitalism, if these investment opportunities were available and viable, “you wouldn’t actually need to unlock them – the finances would already be flowing,” says Robyn Clark, a consultant for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and lead author of a new policy brief and paper on the topic.

“That made me start asking the question: what’s hindering the sector from being unlocked in these types of investments, if we’re saying there’s trillions of dollars just sitting there and waiting?”

Read also: Green Climate Fund steps up to reduce deforestation and forest degradation

SCATTERED DATA

Embarking on the research, Clark quickly discovered one of the key barriers holding these investment flows back: availability of information. Even with her finance background, she and her co-authors “really struggled” to find an empirical evidence base or concrete information regarding projects, would-be investors and existing financial flows.

“So I can’t even imagine how difficult it is for projects or their investors to find the information,” she says. “The projects are saying ‘we can’t find money’, and then the investors are saying ‘we can’t find projects’.” The lack of information and transparency makes it difficult for investors and financial institutions to comprehensively adjudicate and mitigate risk.

This also makes the bigger picture – what financial mechanisms are out there, and what’s happening to achieve global goals – decidedly difficult to envisage and assess. “Everyone’s working on their own specific niche,” says Clark, and not enough reporting and information-sharing is happening to keep track of the cumulative effort. “You can’t actually pinpoint what resources are going where, especially given that most projects have multiple objectives, which can lead to overstated investment figures.”

While there’s plenty of momentum around the topic at the moment, Clark is concerned that decisions are being made on the basis of limited and incomplete data, which makes for a vulnerable financial system. “So there’s a ton of research still to be done.”

A key recommendation of the policy brief, then, is the establishment of a centralized convening body to connect people and resources. “I think that would be a great starting point,” says Clark, “and it would also help push the bigger policy changes and recommendations.”

Rice fields and forest plantations are integrated in the landscape in Libo County, Guizhou Province, China. Photo by Louis Putzel/CIFOR

PLAYING THE LONG GAME

One major policy shift that would help make low-carbon and environmentally friendly investments more attractive than others, entails valuing natural capital – the world’s stocks of natural assets, including geology, soil, air, water and all living things – more accurately.

When companies are not obliged to cover their negative externalities, such as the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of their production processes, “it creates a false economy,” says Clark. If policies took natural capital into account, many high-carbon activities would no longer be cost-effective, and investment would flow to lower-carbon activities instead, she says.

Policy and institutional shifts are also required to encourage long-term investment decision-making. Cost is frequently cited as a barrier to transitioning to a low-carbon economy. However, when a longer-term view is taken, a low-carbon model often works out just as cost-effective as continuing the status quo – if not actually cheaper, as one Citibank study found.

“So not only are you achieving those goals, and staying below the threshold that we need for climate change, but it’s actually more financially feasible as well,” says Clark. “It’s not that it’s not possible, it’s just that we’re still in the mindset of thinking about short-term profit.”

Relying on voluntary commitments to the global goals, she says, is not enough. “It requires a shift in policy to create a political and economic environment that really redirects the bulk of private finance. You can’t just rely on things like green finance or corporate social responsibility, which are maybe 1 percent of the whole market.”

Read also: What’s causing the holdup in REDD+ results-based finance?

A NEW PARADIGM 

What this report calls for, then, is nothing short of a paradigm shift.

“We can’t operate under existing business models, continuing business-as-usual, and expect transformational change to happen,” says Clark.

To unlock private investment, she reiterates, “we just need to create the enabling conditions that would make that a viable choice over the environmentally degrading activities which are currently incentivized.”

And it’s possible, she says: “just not within the current system. We need to make major changes, in order to see major changes. We can’t do the same thing and expect different results.”

By Monica Evans, originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

For more information on this topic, please contact Robyn Clark at [email protected]


This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, which is supported by CGIAR Fund Donors.

This research was supported by USAID and UKAID from the UK government through their Knowledge for Forestry Program.


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