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  • Five (or six) solutions for saving the world’s forests and restoring landscapes

Five (or six) solutions for saving the world’s forests and restoring landscapes

Tony Simons (Left) and Robert Nasi (Right) at the Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2019 closing plenary. Photo by Pilar Valbuena/GLF
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Working together for maximum impact

From the CIFOR-ICRAF DG column, available here.

We’ve heard a lot about ambitious tree planting initiatives in recent months. Laudable as these may be – and we offer congratulations and celebrate the community-minded impetus behind them – we need a lot more than tree planting to restore degraded landscapes and to save the world’s forests.

On International Day of Forests, we join with the United Nations to draw attention to the urgent need for general recognition of the key role these treed landscapes play in combating climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), targets aimed at alleviating poverty.

We celebrate all forested biomes, whether they are enmeshed in effective agricultural systems, natural peatlands, dry forests and mangroves. “Forgotten” forests that deserve more attention include tropical montane cloud, karst and keranga forests.

We urge the international community to implement robust, systemic changes required to address the dramatic consequences of deforestation and forest degradation, to conserve intact forests, sustainably manage secondary, disturbed or overlogged forests, increase  trees on farms, while restoring degraded lands for both global goods and local livelihoods.

The high-level frameworks and targets exist. Through the SDGs, the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), the U.N. Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity we have all we need to deploy transformations and succeed. Hopes are now weighted heavily on the U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). Will it provide the structure within which governments, businesses and people will act in a united effort to offset global warming before it is too late?

But we must not forget those people who are closest to forests. We must deepen our dialogue with the communities who live, work and rely on forests.

Not only are forests the most biologically-diverse land-based ecosystems, but they are home to more than 80 percent of terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects and store vast quantities of carbon.

Consider this: these critical ecosystems containing half the planet’s species of plants and animals provide livelihoods for 1.6 billion people – including more than 2,000 Indigenous cultures – who rely on forests for medicine, fuel, food and shelter.

Although the financial values attributed to land degradation, forest restoration and other data are projections and estimates, we know that the orders of magnitude are valid.

Deforestation, land degradation and depletion of natural capital are common across the world, and estimated to cost $6.3 trillion in lost ecosystem services annually. That is a value roughly 10 percent of the global economy.

When packaged together as the “land-use sector,” agroforestry systems provide more than 95 percent of all human food, generate employment for over half of all adults and account for 30 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions.

And trees in forests or on farms are at the very heart of nature-based solutions for the climate emergency.

Research by CIFOR-ICRAF and others has shown that not only do trees in forests and fields sequester large amounts of carbon but they also provide food and material for farmers and foresters, renew the fertility of soils and their stability, protect watersheds for downstream consumers, and that they are the critical player in our planet’s water cycle.

And now, as we confront a climate emergency, the global community urgently needs to make better efforts to reconnect human prosperity and ecosystem resilience to forests and agriculture.

So how do we get there?

The world needs transformative scientific, development, business and financial partnerships to undertake the large-scale transformations needed and achieve the global targets so onerously worked out over the years.

There are five areas where investment can be made to rejuvenate the functions of degraded ecosystems. These will help protect, expand and value forests and their biodiversity, transform agriculture into perennial systems, and build sustainable value chains, with the combined support of governments and the private sector to make the transition to sustainable economies.

First, financing the transition requires a firm commitment from the global community. We have no shortage of money. Estimates indicate that governments spend $1.8 trillion a year in military expenditures and more than $5 trillion in fossil fuel subsidies, but only about $50 billion on landscape restoration.

We need to realign our priorities.

The investment needed to reverse land degradation around the world to meet the target of the NYDF is $830 billion, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Restoring 350 million hectares as part of the Bonn Challenge — a commitment made during U.N. Climate talks in 2014 as part of the NYDF – is estimated at $360 billion.

More must be done to catalyze funds.

As highlighted by participants in November at the Global Landscapes Forum in Luxembourg, triggering investment requires broadening the definition of “wealth” to include natural and social assets, significant collaboration between the public and private sectors and a systematic change in global supply chains and financial systems.

Second, agriculture must be more strongly connected to climate solutions. The agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors are responsible for just under a quarter of human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, mainly caused by deforestation and such agricultural sources as livestock, soil and nutrient management.

Yet, agroforestry, if defined by tree cover of greater than 10 percent on agricultural land, is widespread: found on more than 43 percent of all agricultural land globally, where 30 percent of rural populations live, representing over 1 billion hectares of land and up to 1.5 billion people.

It must be expanded in both area and diversity of species to help countries meet nationally determined contributions – targets under the U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change aimed at reducing global warming – improve livelihoods, enhance food security and perennialize agriculture, taking the pressure off natural forests.

Third, mangroves and peatlands are vital carbon sinks.

Mangrove ecosystems are recognized for their ability to store large amounts of carbon and protect shorelines from erosion caused by ocean activity. They also provide a buffer by capturing sediment high in organic carbon, which can accumulate in tandem with sea level rise, according to research findings by CIFOR scientists.

Like mangroves, peatlands have a massive role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change, but they are under major threat in many countries in both the Global North and the South.

For example, in the Congo Basin concessions are up for sale and the threat of drainage is real.  Peatlands make up more than half of all wetlands worldwide and they are equivalent to 3 percent of total land and freshwater surfaces.

Built up over thousands of years from decayed, waterlogged vegetation debris, Wetlands International reports that 15 percent of peatlands have been drained for agriculture, commercial forestry and to extract fuel.

When they are drained, they oxidize and carbon is released into the atmosphere, causing global warming.

A third of the world’s soil carbon and 10 percent of global freshwater resources worldwide are stored in peatlands, according to the International Mire Conservation Group and the International Peat Society.

Any program to fix forests and landscapes must ensure peatlands are protected, rewetted and restored.

Fourth, restoring landscapes can bring impressive benefits, by some measures up to $30 for every dollar invested, but restoration investments have so far been slim.

Important steps toward this transformative investment include collaboration between private and public funders, reducing risk and uncertainty for investors, developing better measures of landscape health and building an inventory of technologies, methods and knowledge that can be expanded in scale.

Fifth, biological diversity is fundamental to the existence of life on Earth. To choose the most obvious example, food crops are plants that rely on pollinators to flower and fruit. The value of these crops is almost $600 billion annually.

The vast majority of pollinators are wild, including 20,000 species of bees, and reliant on intact, diverse and healthy ecosystems. Insects are likely to make up the majority of future biodiversity loss: up to 40 percent of all invertebrate species face extinction.

Integrating a greater amount and number of trees, shrubs and other species into farms will provide habitat, pollinators, natural predators and sources of food and incomes.

And so?

We know the solutions needed to save Earth’s forests implement land restoration and we increasingly understand the implications of failure. Tree planting has inspired many to take action to protect and rehabilitate our forests. What is needed now is the financial commitment to make it happen, and happen fast.

We recall the teachings of Elinor Ostrom (1933-2012), who won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009, which she shared with Oliver Williamson, “for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons.”

Through her research into how commonly held lands are managed, she overturned traditional colonial-dominant perspectives. She taught us that people can work together to sustainably and effectively shape natural resource use, as long as ground rules and parameters are clear, and those who work on the land are involved. She recognized that rules should not be imposed without consultation from above by governments or other formal entities to achieve the highest level of successful land management.

She delivered the formula for success. We must ensure we live up to it by melding high-level policies with tactics deployed by sustainable land managers — the people who live and work in forests. We must continually work across sectors to achieve comprehensive results.

Listen to Ostrom: “Until a theoretical explanation — based on human choice — for self-organized and self-governed enterprises is fully developed and accepted, major policy decisions will continue to be undertaken with a presumption that individuals cannot organize themselves and always need to be organized by external authorities.”

Further reading


This article was originally posted on the DG column of Forest News.

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  • Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in 'era of SDGs'

Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

  • Home
  • Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in 'era of SDGs'

Sharing the risk of blue carbon investment in ‘era of SDGs’

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

The public and private sectors must join forces to finance blue carbon, in order to reap social, environmental and economic returns from the ecosystems. 

The Blue Carbon Summit on July 16-17 in Jakarta, Indonesia, clarified the importance of learning and disseminating more about coastal ecosystems. During the event, one of the discussion forums honed in on these at-risk ecosystems, looking in particular at the payment mechanisms needed to keep blue carbon intact.

Financing blue carbon development addressed how to best use the available funding; no matter what kind of payments are on offer, the discussion explored why blue carbon should be accounted for among stakeholders.

Medrilzam, Director for Environmental Affairs at Indonesia’s National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas), highlighted the importance of incorporating blue carbon into efforts to achieve to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), describing the current environment as “the era of SDGs”.

Watch: Financing blue carbon development

SDG 13 on climate action, he said, was the anchor for several other goals, including sustainable cities and communities; life below water; and life on land. Bappenas had never before included blue carbon as an aspect of discussions at national or regional levels, he explained, but is now factoring it in when measuring emission reductions, as Indonesia moves towards its targets of cutting greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) 26% by 2020 and 29% by 2030.

In particular, he highlighted Bappenas’ low carbon development plan, a new development platform aimed at sustaining economic and social growth through low GHG emissions and minimizing the exploitation of natural resources. However, he stressed the need to consider interlinkages, saying that blue carbon related to the economy or the population, and vice versa.

“We cannot just rely on government financing. We know we have limited capacity,” he said, adding that development agencies needed to be imaginative about dealing with emerging forms of innovative finance.

Felia Salim, from the Board of Directors at &Green Fund and Sail Ventures, explained that &Green Fund related to land use, but its model could be replicated for blue carbon by looking at the concept of blended finance.

Mangroves grow along the water’s edge in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

“We need to understand, when we talk about finance, that this is really about linking it to the market,” she said. “We are trying to correct the market forces.”

In terms of blended finance, Salim suggested that the conventional financial sector may not yet fully understand how to mitigate risks related to blue carbon, and therefore has a low appetite for them. Thus, it is all about “absorbing some of the risks that cannot be absorbed by the conventional financial sector.”

“This is the blended part. It’s really sharing the risk,” she said. “Basically the public fund is taking up a portion of the risk — that’s the basic principle of blended finance.”

According to Salim, climate risk and strategy must be incorporated into planning, and such strategies should not only account for economic return, but also environmental returns such as the number of hectares of forest that have been conserved, and social inclusion factors such as jobs created or improvements for smallholder suppliers.

“If you don’t involve stakeholders in the area, it won’t be sustainable,” she stressed, adding that companies which had seriously implemented environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk into their strategies have shown to be performing better as a result.

“The social and environmental returns make economic sense,” she said, “because what you want is […] business that is sustainable, that lasts,” reiterating that &Green Fund is trying to finance a gap that the conventional financial sector cannot absorb.

Read also: Failure to manage blue carbon ecosystems could break the internet 

Mangroves and sandbanks protect the shore in Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by M. Edliadi/CIFOR

Ecotourism is another route to preserving nature while also providing incomes, as outlined by Bustar Maitar, Director of Kurabesi Nusantara Indonesia, a social enterprise offering liveaboard diving tours in eastern Indonesia.

Despite hundreds of comparable boats operating in the archipelago, Maitar said only 12 were Indonesian owned, representing a big growth opportunity for Indonesian investment.

Continuing the investment conversation, Fitrian Adriansyah, chairman of the executive board of IDH (Sustainable Trade Initiative) Indonesia, discussed how IDH invests in collaboration with the private sector.

“We believe sustainable production and trade can transform markets for the benefit of people and the planet,” he said. There is a need to promote greater understanding between the public and private sectors, he added, which “cannot be done if we cannot bridge the gap in terms of understanding the risk when it comes to investment in blue carbon.”

IDH, which invests in commodities, including aquaculture and mangroves, purports to seek impact rather than financial return. Responding to concerns that aquaculture is seen as an “enemy” of blue carbon efforts, Adriansyah said IDH’s criteria in selecting investment opportunities comprised improved productivity; protecting remaining forests; and the inclusion of villagers, smallholders or the community.

Finally, Muhammad Senang Semibiring, a Senior Advisor to the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI), outlined private financing through a community-based coastal carbon corridor initiative. KEHATI, the first and largest biodiversity conservation trust fund in Indonesia, was begun 25 years ago and makes use of public-private partnerships toward the achievement of SDG 17.

By investing in natural solutions, many elements of coastal areas can be protected. There can be economic benefits in doing so, including for the lives of community members. In identifying the challenges facing the financing of blue carbon initiatives, stakeholders can assess these returns and – as evidenced by the discussions at the Blue Carbon Summit – achieve social and economic benefits as well as environmental advantages.

Read also: Seagrass meadows: Underutilized and over-damaged carbon sinks

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator. 

  • Home
  • Bridging funding gaps for climate and sustainable development: Pitfalls, progress and potential of private finance

Bridging funding gaps for climate and sustainable development: Pitfalls, progress and potential of private finance

Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

In a world where natural capital is often unpriced or undervalued, thus making resource exploitation very lucrative, environmentally degrading activities will continue to dominate the economy. The past decade has seen a bourgeoning interest in scaling up private investment to address persistent socioeconomic and environmental challenges globally. The recently formulated sustainable development goals and global climate agenda have further heightened the urgency for a more holistic and integrated conceptualization of transitioning towards a sustainable low-carbon economy. Despite the increasing appeal of green finance as a concept, the delivery of an empirical evidence base that illustrates the effectiveness of projects aligned with climate action and sustainable development—both in terms of measurable performance and value for money—has been less forthcoming. Concurrently, there have been numerous claims of the potential of ‘unlocking’ the trillions of dollars of private finance that is available for investment.

We perform a critical analysis of literature from across a spectrum of research topics to explore the inhibiting barriers and apparent disconnect between the purported available—or required—finance and the actual finance invested in sustainable development. Furthermore, we consider actions that government agencies and the research community might consider in order to better incentivize private investment in developing and low-income countries that will facilitate low-carbon sustainable development. We provide suggestions for fiscal and policy reform in addition to identifying the need for a centralized reporting and convening body. We conclude that far more coordinated efforts are required to encourage investments in long-term and sustainable landscape-scale initiatives. Current efforts at securing finance, implementing initiatives and building the knowledge base are accelerating but remain fragmented and often sectorial in their nature; we thus offer some key recommendations for areas of future progress.


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