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Hammering Out a Global Platform for Forests

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A new action platform to build momentum for implementing the New York Declaration on Forests debuted earlier this month at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) introduced a Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests – an innovative partnership of multinational companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledging to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030.

“Improved agricultural practices is a key solution to deforestation, and is therefore a critical issue for companies like ours,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at the Kellogg Company, an American multinational food manufacturer.

“To achieve our shared ambition to slow and halt the loss of our forests, we need to accelerate our work to build partnerships, strengthening policies, and create incentives to drive outcomes,” said Holdorf. “The NYDF Platform will help us get there.”

The New York Declaration on Forests was first endorsed at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014, and by October 2017 the number of supporters grew to include over 191 entities: 40 governments, 20 sub-national governments, 57 multi-national companies, 16 groups representing indigenous communities, and 58 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The declaration points to ambitious targets: to end natural forest loss by 2030, with a 50 percent reduction by 2020 as a milestone toward its achievement.

In addition, the declaration calls for restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, supporting the private sector in eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of major agricultural commodities by 2020, and providing financial support to reduce emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation.

The Global Platform aims to accelerate achievement of the 10 ambitious goals expressed in the New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary, non-binding commitment to forest protection and restoration.

Goal 1: At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strive to end natural forest loss by 2030.

However, to date, there are no signs that tropical deforestation is slowing. In 2016, tropical deforestation was a larger source of emissions than the European Union’s entire economic activity.

In fact, 2016 saw the highest loss of tree cover globally in more than 15 years, driven in part by a strong El Niño event in 2015 that led to unprecedented droughts and wildfires, as well as by the continued expansion of agricultural production for commodities like palm oil in Southeast Asia and soy in Latin America.

For instance, Brazil achieved steep reductions in deforestation for over a decade, but official government data indicate that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 29 percent higher in 2016 than in the previous year.

Goal 2: Support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.

In response to the need for clear and consistent guidance on definitions, implementation, monitoring, verification, and reporting on supply-chain commitments, a coalition of environmental and social NGOs is developing the Accountability Framework in close consultation with companies, governments, and other stakeholders.

Designed for companies, financial institutions, government agencies, reporting and tracking initiatives, implementation service providers, advocacy organizations, producers, and communities affected by commodity production. The Accountability Framework is being developed in late 2017 and 2018, beginning with the global framework to be followed by more detailed good practices and guidance in an accompanying manual.

Goal 3: Significantly reduce deforestation derived from other economic sectors by 2020.

A new wave of infrastructure development – mines, oil and gas production facilities, hydroelectric plants, and road networks – is creating new deforestation hotspots, such as one in the Western Amazon. While such development is not new to the region, there is a growing number of projects that mobilize large amounts of funding and access previously undisturbed forests.

At the same time, new sustainability standards are being developed. The World Bank has created a new Environmental and Social Framework applicable to all economic sectors, including mining and infrastructure, that is intended to increase the coverage and harmonization of policies and improve monitoring and accountability efforts.

Set to be applied from 2018, the Environmental and Social Framework includes prevention of critical habitat conversion and sustainable forest management.

Goal 4: Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs, such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy, in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.

This goal seeks to address forest loss by supporting economically sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests.

Farming to meet basic needs is estimated to contribute nearly a third of total deforestation in the tropics. In many developing countries the level of fuelwood collected for basic needs such as cooking and heating exceeds regrowth by trees and contributes roughly one-third of forest degradation.

The problem of fuelwood collection is particularly acute in East Africa and South Asia, with hotspots in Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Malaysia.

The forest impact of fuelwood collection can be reduced by shifting from open fires to more efficient cookstoves or solar cookers and heaters.

Goal 5: Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increase the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

To date, 45 private and public entities have pledged to restore over 156 million hectares of forest under the Bonn Challenge.

Twenty-six parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate containing quantified forest and land sector restoration targets totalling 42.5 million hectares. Additional mitigation and adaptation measures listed in the NDCs add another 39.5 million hectares of planned forest restoration.

Three of world’s largest conservation organizations – BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF – have just launched an unprecedented 25-year tree planting and restoration effort they are calling the Trillion Trees program.

The planet is losing 10 billion trees every year, the groups warn, leading to widespread impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, local economies and human health.

The partner groups say one trillion is the number of new trees needed to reverse the global decline in tree cover.

Goal 6: Include ambitious, quantitative forest conservation and restoration targets for 2030 in the post-2015 global development framework, as part of new international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals agreed to by the member states of the United Nations, and adopted in September 2015.

The conservation target adopted in SDG 15.2, specifically the aim to “halt deforestation,” is both quantifiable and highly ambitious.

Goal 7: Agree in 2015 to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement, in accordance with internationally agreed rules and consistent with the goal of not exceeding 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

Written before the Paris Agreement on climate was adopted in December 2015, this goal aimed to get forest-related mitigation measures included in the that agreement. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, includes a full article, Article 5, dedicated to land use and forests, cementing the role of forests and other carbon sinks in achieving its overall mitigation goal.

Goal 8: Provide support for the development and implementation of strategies to reduce forest emissions.

International forest finance remains in short supply and has not grown substantially in recent years, according to OECD data.

Many middle-income countries invest substantial amounts of domestic finance into forest protection, in many cases exceeding what they receive from international public sources.

“There is a substantial amount of grey finance in the private sector that has the potential to be greened,” says the New York Declaration on Forests’ most recent progress report Forest Declaration.

Goal 9: Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions, particularly through public policies to scale-up payments for verified emission reductions and private-sector sourcing of commodities.

Results-based REDD+ payments, the financial incentives for reducing forestry emissions, are only beginning to reward countries and jurisdictions that reduce forest emissions, as called for by Goal 9.

Roughly US$4.1 billion has been committed in the form of results-based REDD+ payments, and about one-third of this amount has been disbursed, mostly to Brazil.

REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

REDD+ aims to mitigate climate change through reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries. Researchers estimate that land use change, including deforestation and forest degradation, accounts for between 12 and 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Goal 10: Strengthen forest governance, transparency, and the rule of law, while also empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those pertaining to their lands and resources.

New data from Global Witness shows a record number of killings of people who tried to defend their land or the environment against industries in 2016 – 182 people died. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been taking steps to highlight the issue, and is expected to release a special report next year.

The Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests provides a central coordination mechanism to increase political ambition, accelerate action, forge new partnerships, and monitor progress towards replaining and restoring the world’s degraded forests.

The NYDF Global Platform will be convened by UNDP, which will serve as its secretariat, in partnership with Meridian Institute and Climate Advisers.

The NYDF Platform will also collaborate closely with the NYDF Assessment Partners, a network of civil society groups and research institutions that annually publishes the NYDF Progress Assessment, an independent evaluation of progress toward meeting the NYDF goals.

“Without a doubt, protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s tropical forests is one of the most important climate solutions available to us today. We cannot achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees [above pre-industrial levels] without focused collaborative efforts on forests,” said State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

“Germany intends to support the launch of the NYDF Platform as a signal of real intention by NYDF endorsers to accelerate action to protect and restore the world’s forests,” Flasbarth said.

Achieving the NYDF goals could reduce the global emissions of greenhouse gases by 4.5 to 8.8 billion metric tons every year – equivalent to the United States’ annual emissions or equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by one billion cars.

“Meeting the world’s climate and forest goals will only be possible through the collaborative action of all forest stakeholders—countries, companies, indigenous peoples, and civil society included,” said Jamison Ervin of UNDP.

“The New York Declaration on Forests is a prime example of this much-needed collaboration in action, and UNDP is proud to host the Global Platform for the NYDF to accelerate partnership and action to end deforestation.”

César Rey, director of Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, remarked, “The challenges we face in addressing deforestation are daunting, yet with strong and committed partnership among governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community, I am confident we can achieve the ground-breaking vision of the NYDF.”

“By facilitating synergies among the range of activities and stakeholders involved in protecting forests, transforming supply chains and improving forest livelihoods and governance,” said Rey, “the NYDF Platform can only help advance our collective efforts.”

“For indigenous peoples, forests are the center of our cultural and spiritual lives,” said Mina Setra, deputy secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago.

“Because of our commitment to protect our forests, indigenous peoples face ongoing threats to our lives, our rights and our livelihoods,” she said. “We look forward to working with the NYDF Platform to strengthen forest governance, transparency, and rule of law, and to advance recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples.”


Featured Image : An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. February 24, 2013 (Photo by Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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