Forests are essential to human health and livelihoods – from the air we breathe to the water we drink and food we eat, forests are beautiful, inspiring places and home to countless species of plants and animals. Their value in our lives is well documented, and increasingly embraced by both the public and private sectors.
Forests matter, and everyone knows it. Yet globally, we continue to place higher value on cut forests than those that are left standing. Tropical forests are being destroyed at the rate of 36 football fields per minute – or the loss of an area three times the size of San Francisco every day. Deforestation is estimated to cost the global economy $2-5 trillion each year, and has turned what should be our largest carbon sink into our second largest source of climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. As tropical forests are home to over half the planet’s species, this habitat loss also has devastating consequences for biodiversity.
Fortunately, we are beginning to better understand these integrated drivers and impacts of deforestation – and develop collaborative, integrated solutions accordingly.
Awareness Leads to Action
The international community is not only increasingly aware of the connection between forests and climate, but also finally beginning to pursue practical, collaborative solutions for forest conservation. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) – a method first established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2005 – has moved beyond theory to practice, with increasing attention to policy implementation and private sector participation.
The global policy community has embraced REDD+ within international climate negotiations, with the last UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP 19) drafting and adopting the Warsaw Framework for REDD+. This is a huge step towards creating a new global paradigm in which forests are valuable – not just when cleared for production or resource extraction, but when left in their natural state to perform all of the incredible roles they play in balancing our natural and human systems.
And whereas most areas of the international climate negotiations have been contentious and heated, protecting forests seems to be the one piece everyone can agree on. The United States has forged a leadership role, with the US State Department and US Agency for International Development setting innovative examples for how to stimulate private investment and democratic support for new “green growth” strategies that embrace REDD+.
The private sector – from financial investors to commodities producers – is also beginning to shift its participation in REDD+ from theory to practice. The Global Consumer Goods Forum – representing over 400 retailers, manufacturers, and service providers with combined annual sales of almost $6 trillion – has called on global governments to secure ambitious, legally binding, and enforced REDD+ frameworks under an international climate deal. The CEO of Unilever insisted that the commodities industry “has a clear role to play in creating a more sustainable future… within the framework of an accepted and enforced global climate deal that implements the appropriate elements of REDD+.”
With such an interdisciplinary and global challenge that engages so many stakeholders, how do we work together to fundamentally change the way we value forests in our global supply chains, land use policies, and economic development models? What does this sort of collaboration look like in practice?
These are the sorts of questions that will be discussed in front of a broad audience of public, private, and civil stakeholders at the upcoming REDD+ Talks: London event on October 22, 2014. Sponsored by various groups including PwC, Norton Rose Fulbright LLP, USAID’s BIOREDD+ Program, and more, REDD+ Talks: London will bring together policy, business, and civil society leaders to facilitate collaborative vision and action in REDD+ implementation. The day will feature discussions on public-private strategies for sustainable commodity production, economic development, and land use globally.
Tara O’Shea – Director of Program Development at Code REDD