Contribute! Roadmaps for primary forests conservation and innovative forest technologies in the Asia-Pacific region – the main results of the inception workshop
Contribute! Roadmaps for primary forests conservation and innovative forest technologies in the Asia-Pacific region – the main results of the inception workshop
Following the recommendations of the ‘Third Asia-Pacific Forest Sector Outlook Study’ (FAO, 2019), FAO and CIFOR, lead center of the CGIAR research programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), are developing two inter-related roadmaps for primary forest conservation, and for innovative forest technologies in the Asia-Pacific region. These roadmaps will include key recommendations (policy and concrete actions) informed by science. They will be developed through an inclusive and participative process, involving key regional stakeholders and technical experts and paying a specific attention to the contributions of students and people engaged in activities related to the forest sector in the Asia-Pacific region.
On July 30th, 2020, FAO and FTA co-organized an online inception workshop to launch this collective process with three objectives in mind: (i) agree on the global direction of the two roadmaps; (ii) identify potential contributors; (iii) start building a strong community around these roadmaps to ensure a large participation to the process. The workshop combined plenary sessions with parallel sessions in smaller breaking groups (seven groups of 8-10 persons each) with the view to ensure both inclusiveness and active participation.
The workshop attracted a wide and diversified audience, representative of the key stakeholder groups in the region (international organizations, governments, private sector, civil society, research and academia).
The first session, devoted to primary forest conservation, was the occasion to discuss the main threats facing primary forest conservation, among which: climate change and natural disasters; population and economic growth; overexploitation and illegal exploitation of forests; conflicting land uses; inconsistent policies across sectors and scales; corruption, weak governance, migration and conflicts. Participants in the workshop identified many ‘hotspots’ for primary forest conservation and suggested for the roadmap to develop a list of criteria that could help describing and mapping these hotspots across the region and contribute to prioritize conservation efforts. Among such criteria were mentioned: size, level of threats, as well as richness and uniqueness of the ecosystem (considering its environmental, economic, social and cultural values).
Participants recommended to adopt an integrated, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder forest governance, articulated at all scales. Remnant primary forests should be considered within the broader landscape, taking into account the dynamics at stake in surrounding areas (e.g. planted forests, agricultural land, infrastructures and human settlements) that directly or indirectly impact primary forest status and trends. Among the institutional challenges for primary forest conservation, participants highlighted: the accurate monitoring of primary forest values; the sustainable funding of forest conservation; the importance of education and capacity building; the effective enforcement of existing laws and rules.
During the second session, the following categories of innovative technologies appeared as the most promising for sustainable forestry and sustainable forest management: ICTs/digital technologies; low-carbon technologies; biotechnologies; and emerging finance technologies. Most participants shared the feeling that innovation benefits will outweigh the risks. Innovative technologies can provide new products and services; generate further income and employment opportunities in the forest sector; and, by reducing waste, enhance the sustainable management of natural forest resources. However, the negative impacts of new technologies on local communities – including in terms of access to natural resources, food security, employment and livelihoods -, on natural ecosystems and on biodiversity should not be overlooked. In particular, the adoption and dissemination of innovative technologies will likely produce a shift in the labour market: generating new skilled job but destroying unskilled jobs and marginalizing traditional practices.
Among the main barriers to uptake and upscale of technologies, participants identified: (i) the lack of capacity (infrastructures and equipment, human capital and financial resources); and, (ii) restrictive policies and regulations lagging behind the rapid evolution of technologies and the rapid shifts in wood demand. One of the major challenges will be to “scale-down” innovative technologies and adapt them to each local context, so that they can also benefits to traditional users, smallholders and local communities. Participants agreed that regional cooperation, investment, infrastructure development, education and capacity building will be key to overcome these barriers, support technology transfer and dissemination, and accompany the populations at risk of being marginalized by these technological advances. They highlighted the importance for the public and private sectors to work hand-in-hand to address these issues.
Consumers have a lot of power for orienting the forest sector towards sustainability. Consequently, these roadmaps should contribute to raise consumer awareness on the two topics discussed during this workshop.
During the workshop, participants demonstrated their high level of interest and enthusiasm for the two topics discussed. This raises high expectations regarding the outcomes of this collective process. Thomas HOFER, Senior Forestry Officer in FAO Regional office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-RAP, Bangkok), thus invited all participants to maintain their level of engagement in the coming months and to contribute actively to the work ahead with innovative ideas, out-of-the-box thinking and a forward-looking perspective, in the spirit of the ‘Third Asia-Pacific Forest Sector Outlook Study’.
At the end of the workshop, Vincent GITZ, FTA director, presented the next steps of the collective process of development of the two roadmaps.
After the workshop, the scopes of the two roadmaps were refined, based on the comments received.
In the coming months, FAO and FTA will invite further contributions to the roadmaps through different channels: (i) direct interviews of selected key regional stakeholders; (ii) an open online consultation; and, (iii) an essay competition for students and young people engaged in activities related to the forest sector in the region. Following this inception workshop, additional technical workshops will be organized as appropriate, at critical stages of the process.
The open consultation was framed based on the suggestions received during the workshop. It aims at collecting scientific and local/traditional knowledge, experience and best practices, views and perspectives, suggestions and recommendations on primary forest conservation and on the application of innovative technologies in forestry and forest management in the Asia-Pacific region.
The consultation is open till November 15th, 2020NOW EXTENDED UNTIL 15 DECEMBER!
Young people will be the managers and decision-makers of tomorrow. They have shown their capacity to generate and spearhead trans-national mobilization to address environmental challenges, such as climate change, and advance sustainable development. They can be instrumental in shaping a sustainable future by taking leadership roles and generating momentum through collaboration and social media, and by transforming rigid institutions from within and participating to the uptake and upscale of innovative technologies in the forest sector.
This is why FAO and FTA decided to organize a competition to encourage contributions from students and young people engaged in activities related to the forest sector in the Asia-Pacific region. Youth are invited to share their experience, expectations and recommendations regarding the use of innovative technologies to advance sustainable forest management in Asia and the Pacific. This competition will take place in two steps: (1) call for abstracts, (2) development of the selected contributions.
The call for abstracts is open till November 15th, 2020NOW EXTENDED UNTIL 15 DECEMBER!
The main findings and recommendations of the two roadmaps, as well as the best youth papers, will be presented and discussed during a regional multi-stakeholder workshop possibly organized back-to-back to the XV World Forestry Congress to be held in Seoul, Republic of Korea (24-28 May 2021).
The final objective is to publish the technical paper and the corresponding policy brief by end November 2021.
This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with Bioversity International, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR, ICRAF and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.
Innovating Finance Towards Sustainable Landscapes - A Report of the Session at GLF Luxembourg
Innovating Finance Towards Sustainable Landscapes – A Report of the Session at GLF Luxembourg
Innovative Finance for Sustainable Landscapes at GLF Luxembourg
Last Saturday, 30 November 2019, in the prestigious European Convention Center in Luxembourg, an outstanding and diverse panel discussed innovative mechanisms and initiatives to upscale sustainable finance.
Carole Dieschbourg, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development of Luxembourg, in her opening speech of the overall GLF event made clear the expected outcomes of this day:
“It is not an investment if it destroys the planet!”
Her inspiring speech paved the way to an incredible Saturday of exchanges around the topic of sustainable finance.
A diverse panel
FTA organized a session bringing together seven people with different backgrounds, representing different actor groups in the finance flow: from investors to community, smallholders or SME. The event was live-streamed and is now available to replay.
“Our work provides social benefits to over 15,000 people” – Maria Teresita Chincilla Miranda, ACOFOP
“Eventually we created a fund […] It is now financing 13 different projects.” – Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández
The session was opened by the FTA Director, Vincent Gitz, who reminded that FTA has made innovating finance for sustainable landscapes one of its key operational priorities. Vincent underlined how the finance sector is actively seeking for initiatives that are green, bankable, responsible and inclusive. There is an urgency for these investments to take place and for concrete actions to go in the right way, he added. He suggested 3 mutually re-inforcing pathways necessary for the transition towards sustainable finance: (i) economic growth in the productive tropical landscape, (ii) together with care for the environment and climate issues, (iii) integrating social dimension inclusiveness especially for smallholders, women, SMEs and indigenous communities.
ACOFOP/FORESCOM who manages a total annual turnover of 8-10 million from over 500 thousand hectares of FSC certified sustainable forest management in the Mayan Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala. A success story exemplified through the convincing words of María Teresita Chinchilla Miranda and Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández (senior advisor and CEO respectively), after which, the moderator Gerhard Mulder from Oxylus Climate Advisors, was able to elicit point of views and suggestions from all the panelists in a lively and deep debate.
Pauline Nantongo – Director of Ecotrust in Uganda, Edit Kiss – Director of Development and Portfolio Management of Althelia Funds, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar of the Carbon Neutrality Business of Total SA, Hans Loth – Global Head UN Environment Partnership of Rabobank, Veronica Galmez of the Forest and Climate Team of the Green Climate Fund highlighted that innovation might introduce risk for investors that need to be quantified in order to be managed. Inclusiveness in financial endeavors was a major focus of the session – starting from ACOFOP’s example, but also looking at the panel itself.
“This panel is a dream come true!” – Gerhard Mulder, moderator of the session
Gaps, risk and innovation
All panelists agreed on the importance of public funds to help reduce the risk of agriculture and forest investments in the tropics. Risk assessment and management was seen as one of the major challenges for upscaling access to finance, especially because in the agri-food sector risks are complex, need to be better understood and quantified in order to devise risk mitigation strategies and relevant financial tools. “Understanding the different causes of deforestation is far from easy,” said Veronica Galmez.
The discussion highlighted a leitmotiv of the day: the huge gap between local financial needs and the international supply of finance. There is so much money available, but we have not found yet an efficient way to actually get that to the majority of agricultural and forestry practitioners. NGOs such as Ecotrust are good examples of possible pathways, but they are globally still few and even less investors have the patience or are prepared to take the risk to work with such organizations. As a result, both the farmers and SME working with Ecotrust and the communities organized through ACOFOP still rely mainly on public funds to strengthen their economic activities.
Hans Loth, representative of Rabobank indicated that even initiatives such as Ecotrust and ACOFOP are still relatively small and more aggregation is required, preferably involving local banks or other formal local financial infrastructures. For banks to change behavior, invest in such endeavors, for sustainable finance to upscale efficiently, strong internal leadership that drives willingness to innovate and go beyond traditional banking is required. Such innovations could then be proposed to investors and clients, with track record, documentation and assessed risk. Regulatory frameworks can also hinder innovative approaches, as they limit the options investors have to allocate funds.
“If you really want to scale up […] you really need to change the regulatory framework of banking.” – Hans Loth, Rabobank
Althelia is an example of such leadership and willingness to tackle innovation. Created in 2013 to make use of the opportunities around mitigation in the forest sector, it now invests not just in low carbon activities but also in increasing local capacities and market conditions for sustainable production.
“The idea was to innovate also on the investment side – how to deploy capital, because currently existing tools are not suitable for these types of projects.” – Edit Kiss, Althelia
As climate change is inevitable and touches everyone, innovation has to come from every sector. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar strongly defended this position by illustrating the new business area of Total SA – the Carbon Neutrality Business. Interestingly, it operates also in the same landscape of Uganda as Ecotrust offering opportunities to invest together in sustainable, climate smart agriculture and forest conservation. Total, he said, as well as many other private companies, adheres to the Paris agreement and strive to find ways to comply with those targets, integrating them into their business models. Nature Based Solutions were agreed by the panelists as one way to move forward in emission reduction.
“Emissions come mainly from energy […] so a lot of the mitigation effort should come from that sector.” – Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, Total
Pauline Nantongo shared a compelling story of how the NGO Ecotrust has been able to raise funding to support both productive activities and ecosystem services in a landscape heavily affected by the production of agro-commodities (sugar cane) and oil and gas exploitation.
“We work with local communities and we develop a community vision of how they would like to see their landscapes.” – Pauline Nantongo, EcoTrust
In conclusion: there are no bad people here
The interaction with the audience highlighted how some of the actors in the financial and energy sectors are now perceived as the “bad guys” from the general public. “There is always room for improvement,” said the moderator, indicating that we really need to change the way we enter into dialogue. People entered this global dialogue because we are all are seeking change. This fueled even more the discussion on how to renovate and innovate in a green and sustainable way, echoing the words of Minister Dieschbourg. It is clear that proper investments will need to generate value, without depleting the biggest capital we have: the Earth. Traceability, certifications, monitoring, etc. are all mechanisms that need to be in place for concrete sustainable finance.
Having all these different actors sitting together in the same room was an exceptional event itself – hearing them talk was moving. “These connections are fundamental, ” stressed Gerhard. “There is a need for strong grassroot organisations such as EcoTrust and ACOFOP to identify opportunities and projects that benefit the landscape.” The session confirmed the enormous value of having strong local network and relationships, building on the trust of these local stakeholders. But this alone falls short. In order to scale up significantly, investors like Rabobank and Althelia are absolutely necessary to bridge the gap and connect them to sources of funding. Funding could flow through organizations such as FORESCOM or local banks or cooperatives. Finally, organizations such as GCF could provide a range of financial instruments that are fit-for-purpose for the local context.
The debate exemplified also that sustainable finance is a process, not an outcome or solution. The main questions are around how the process is organized and how to exploit the strengths of local institutions while empowering them.
“Numerous people work hard to make change, globally, but deforestation, inequality are still present. Landscape finance is still not impacting at scale.” With these words Gerhard Mulder remarked that doing better is not synonymous of doing the necessary, so he asked the panel to put in their words what would be the activity that – if they could implement – would be fundamental for change. The dream they would like to see come true. These were the answers:
De-risk smallholder investments – where I come from smallholders own 80% of the land and the agriculture – so we need innovations that remove, mitigate or reduce this perceived risk and allow them to access these financing sources. Pauline Nantongo
We have shown that we can set up profitable businesses, I would like to see banks acknowledging this and working with us. Maria Teresita Chinchilla Miranda, ACOFOP
We need to access funds much faster – frankly, we cannot wait 3 years to launch a fund. Edit Kiss, Althelia
De-risking, which is something we are already doing, and how this could upscale to a multi-stakeholder level, more and quicker. Hans Loth, Rabobank
Keep some acceptance to risk – as de-risking will not arrive soon – and maintain all these actors on the table discussing together, seeking change together. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Aybar, Total
We are running out of time, so we need to figure out how to include and embed all this ambition at all the different scales in making our decisions. So we need ambition and speed of change. Veronica Galmez, Green Climate Fund
Keep on focusing on the well-being of our communities. Elmer Francisco Méndez Hernández, FORESCOM
These mechanisms build on existing financial instruments, so the innovation is fundamentally in their capacity to identify and facilitate new objectives, rules and regulations. All these financial instruments can increase accessibility with more flexibility in expectations, thus liberating liquidity. However, they generally require an intermediary to facilitate fund acquisition, management and distribution. One-size-fits-all solutions are unlikely to work, nor will quick fixes. In the past, initiatives that have proven successful in integrating inclusive approaches were typically long term (>10 years) and initially supported by public funds, with commercial finance attracted later, so this needs to be taken into consideration when planning new projects with the identified sets of financial tools. Lessons learned from the past should be part of the strategic planning of today’s finance for sustainable landscapes. The main findings have also been summarized in a White Paper.
Given the success of this GLF Session, to allow participants and panelists to continue sharing their views, FTA, CIFOR and Tropenbos International have agreed to extend one last time the deadline for commenting the paper in the eDialogue until the 15th of December 2019.
Don’t miss the opportunity to join this debate!
By Bas Louman, Tropenbos International and Fabio Ricci, CIFOR/Bioversity.