Forests moving forward
The deal reached at the UN climate talks last week delivered much of what we asked for. More than 200 countries have signed up to an agreement which aims to keep global temperature rises below 1.5°C. And, as we’d hoped, the text explicitly acknowledges the significance of forests, and recognizes the importance of incentives for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+).
“The explicit mention of forests in the agreement sends an indisputable signal that actions to halt deforestation and forest degradation will have to be a part of high level domestic political agendas, and no longer a marginal topic,” said Josefina Braña-Varela, Policy Director of WWF’s Forest and Climate Programme.
However, the deal fell short of guaranteeing the financial support for REDD+ that would enable developing tropical forest countries to play a bigger part in mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.
“Paris marks a turning point on the road, but not the destination,” said Peter Graham, head of WWF’s Forest and Climate Programme. “Governments, businesses, investors and civil society need to act now to protect, sustainably manage and restore forests in order to get on the right track.”
Actions pledged to date fall far short of the emissions reductions needed to stay on a 1.5°C trajectory. However, several developments during the Paris conference showed that key countries are ready to act more ambitiously. A joint vision signed by leaders of 17 governments set out their commitment to strong, collective and urgent action to halt deforestation and significantly increase forest restoration. Germany, Norway and the UK stated their intention to provide US$5 billion in REDD+ finance over the next five years if tropical forest countries come forward with ambitious, high-quality proposals.
There were commitments from the private sector too. Paraguay announced a new collaborative partnership with hydropower giant Itaipu Binacional to protect the most important forests in Paraguay, while Mondelēz International pledged to lead private sector action against deforestation in Côte d’Ivoire, working with 26,000 smallholder cocoa farmers. WWF itself announced a new partnership with seven Chinese timber companies and civil society partners to eliminate timber products associated with deforestation.
These developments echo the high level importance of the forest and land sector, which is responsible for a quarter of all emissions, and holds great potential for ramping up urgent climate change mitigation efforts.
WWF already works in more than 20 tropical forest countries to help develop local and national REDD+ programmes. In support of the agreements made in Paris and to work against dangerous climate change, we’ll continue and strengthen our efforts to conserve some of the world’s most important tropical forests via local offices like those in Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guyana, Indonesia, and Peru, among others.
“Tropical forest countries are ready to go further in their efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change through forest conservation and restoration,” added Graham. “We need to seize the momentum, and mobilize the financial resources and bold partnerships needed to make the vision shown in Paris become a reality.”