Interview with Pablo Gutman, WWF Forest and Climate Programme Leader
Pablo Gutman is WWF’s Senior Director of Environmental Economics and Leader of WWF’s international Forest and Climate Programme. In this role, he leads WWF’s efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).
What is your background?
I am trained as an economist and studied in both my native Argentina, where I have a degree in Political Economy from the University of Buenos Aires, and in the UK where I earned an MSc. in Environmental Economics from the University of London. I have been working for 40 years on issues that straddle environment and development, which is a very complex combination. In short, I try to solve environmental challenges in ways that benefit both people and nature. I have worked at WWF-US for 13 years in the policy area, looking mostly at the economic issues of conservation such as payment for ecosystem services (PES), climate change, renewable energy, forests and more recently REDD+. Prior to joining the WWF-US office, I worked with academic institutions, financial organizations, development agencies and governments in more than two dozen countries around the world.
How did you get involved in REDD+ work?
I have been working in economics and conservation for four decades, so about five years ago when REDD+ became an area of WWF work, it was a natural fit for me. Several of my ongoing project areas related to climate change, PES, and financing for biodiversity conservation have overlaps with REDD+, so my participation made absolute sense. I was among the first recruited to join the team of WWF people focusing on REDD+, and have been deeply involved ever since.
What role does economics play in REDD+?
An incredibly important one. REDD+ is an opportunity to bring significant economic resources to forest conservation. So while forest conservation is a very old and well-established idea and has been practiced for many years, REDD+ may be able to bring the substantial resources and political will to make it happen on a global scale. These two things, resources and political will, are absolutely essential for the success of REDD+ in the future.
What are the Forest and Climate Programme’s REDD+ goals for the coming years?
Our Forest and Climate Programme team has a very ambitious goal of zero net emissions from deforestation and degradation by 2020. That overarching goal motivates our work, and REDD+ could be an important contributor to that. However, at this point in the game it’s clear that REDD+ can be a piece of the zero net emissions puzzle, but that it can’t be the only piece. So in addition to our work on getting REDD+ right, we are also looking at how REDD+ can support other climate change and forest conservation solutions. The overall WWF goal for REDD+ is to help make it happen in a way that is fast, big and responsive to the biodiversity and social values of the organization.
What are some of the challenges REDD+ faces?
As with any global initiative, there are many challenges. One of our biggest hurdles is making sure that REDD+ becomes part of a global climate change agreement by 2015. The other challenge we face in moving REDD+ forward is making sure we have a portfolio of good examples that demonstrate how REDD+ can happen on the ground, and how it can benefit local communities, countries and the environment. As we get closer to 2015, we need to be able to show policymakers at the international level that REDD+ works in real life situations and brings real, positive results.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your REDD+ experience?
The most important thing I have learned is that teamwork is absolutely vital! Making sure that countries take ownership of the work, and that all of us working in REDD+ can collaborate, are other must haves for success. Finally, I have seen that REDD+ can’t happen alone, but needs to be integrated with other conservation and economic programmes. As we move forward, we should continue to strike a balance between being inspirational about what REDD+ can do and being realistic about the potential bumps in the road ahead.
What are you most excited about for REDD+ in the future?
I think that so far, REDD+ has brought unparalleled attention, interest and focus to forest conservation. We need to seize this chance to protect forests on a global scale while collaborating with people who live in and depend on the forest for their livelihoods. I think we can do this, but we have a very clear window of opportunity – from today until 2015 and from 2015 until 2020 – to do this important work. If we don’t do it now, we may not get the chance again for generations.
Do you have any final words to share?
The WWF Forest and Climate Programme is a team player, and we want to partner with you. Whether you are a forest dweller, you are one of the causes of deforestation, or you are one of the solutions – let’s work on REDD+ together.
Reporting by Breen Byrnes, Communications and Learning Programme Officer, WWF Forest and Climate Programme
t: Jennifer Ferguson-Mitchell, Communications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org