Sowing New Ground for Forests at the Global Climate Action Summit | WWF
Sowing New Ground for Forests at the Global Climate Action Summit

Posted on 12 November 2018

Climate action has a new deadline.
By Emelin Gasparrini, WWF Forest and Climate

For people who work in the REDD+ and forest and climate space, the importance of forests in climate mitigation and adaptation is a familiar truism. But venture into the wider climate community and that vital contribution is less widely known. Indeed, some claim that forests garner less than 1% of the overall climate conversation.

It was with this obstacle in mind that a coalition of over 100 NGOs, businesses, state and local governments, Indigenous groups and local communities, led by WWF, issued the 30X30 Forests, Food and Land Challenge, one of the five official challenges of the Global Climate Action Summit this September in San Francisco. The 30X30 coalition called on businesses, states, city and local governments, and global citizens to take action for better forest and habitat conservation, food production and consumption, and land use, working together across all sectors of the economy to deliver up to 30% of the climate solutions needed by 2030.

After months of coordination and organizing, the crucial role forests – and food and land – play in climate action was on full display all week, from the debut of the walking trees and #TheForgottenSolution at the Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice March to the main stage of the Summit. 

This elevation was important, not only to increase general knowledge about the importance of forests in the general climate sector but also to achieve one of the goals of the summit – to highlight non-state action and inspire national governments to step up their ambition in the face of dangerous climate change.

Non-state actors were keen to answer the call. 17 announcements were made under the umbrella of 30x30 from the main stage of the Summit, representing the diverse nature of climate action in forests. Walmart and Unilever made connected commitments to advancing jurisdictional approaches to transparent and deforestation-free supply chains. The Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force announced a new set of principles for subnational governments working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and local communities. The Pulitzer Center launched the Rainforest Journalism Fund, which will be “focused on raising public awareness of the urgent environmental issues facing the world’s tropical forests.” 45 cities around the world launched the Cities4Forests initiative.
Though the Summit was focused on non-state action, one example of a coordinated effort by state and non-state actors took the stage at Forests, Food and Land Day: Meeting the 30X30 Challenge. Organized by WWF and several other 30X30 coalition members and nimbly emceed by WRI Distinguished Senior Fellow Frances Seymour, the event packed a full program of speakers, panels, and performances into the Herbst Theater. 

On stage, the Government of Peru, along with the Global Environment Facility, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, and WWF introduced their efforts to secure large scale, long-term climate investments for forest conservation in the Peruvian Amazon. This program, known as Patrimonio del Peru, will result in improved management of 16.7m ha in 38 protected areas in the Peruvian Amazon by 2028, safeguarding 23% of Peru's total Amazon carbon stock (6.7b tons of CO2eq), and sequestering more than 40m tons CO2e annually. The improved management includes activities to increase participation in management by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, and 10 of the Protected Areas are Communal Reserves, which are areas designated for the conservation of flora and fauna specifically for the benefit of Indigenous communities.
While many aspects of protected areas often fall under the purview of national governments, Hon. Fabiola Muñoz Dodero, Peru’s Minister of Environment, explained the motivation for collaborating with non-state actors to realize this program. “Working with partners is an opportunity for us to identify new options, it’s the best way to move forward and show what’s possible.” 

The realm of the possible has taken on new urgency since the closing of the Summit. The release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming 1.5°C and the conclusions it draws have been more widely covered than any report on climate science in recent memory. Climate action has a new deadline. 

Speaking from the stage at the Herbst Theater about Patrimonio del Peru, WWF-US CEO Carter Roberts also described our collective path forward. “What I've learned through this work is that every country is different, every version is different, but every case relies on leadership and partnership.” 

The Global Climate Action Summit highlighted the leadership of non-state actors like Indigenous Peoples, businesses, cities, and civil society to mitigate and adapt to climate change by improving the way they use and manage forests and land. Now, countries will have the opportunity to step up to meet them at COP24

“National governments can arrive in Poland with the wind at their backs, giving them the courage to commit to even greater emissions reductions that move us closer to a 1.5-degree future,” said Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s Global Climate and Energy Practice.

To meet those commitments and achieve a 1.5°C world, we’ll need everyone – national governments, the private sector, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, cities and states – working together to enact ambitious, collaborative, and immediate climate action. Forests and land must be at the forefront of that action. Our very world depends on it. 
Walking tree at Rise for Climate, Jobs & Justice March in San Francisco. September 2018.
© Lou Leonard