Financing Forest Action: Investing in Forests to Address the Climate Crisis
How can forests combat global climate change through nature-based solutions? In the wake of a global pledge to end deforestation, this panel event brought together national and international environmental leaders to discuss how to scale up forest finance. It was organized by the UN Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (UN-REDD), which supports developing countries in reducing forest emissions and enhancing carbon stocks for sustainable development.
Mario Boccucci, Head, UN-REDD, opened the hybrid session by reminding all that there is no solution to the climate crisis without forests. He applauded the new forest commitments from world leaders, but warned that the world must now scale up action and financing on forests. He said UN-REDD can be a valuable platform for supporting forest objectives.
Partha Dasgupta, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Cambridge, reflected that past visions of economics have focused on industrial and human capital over nature. He called for a shift towards nature-based solutions, reminding participants that humans have overextended the Earth’s use of resources and must include the preservation of natural systems in their notion of investments.
André Weidenhaupt, Director General, Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Luxembourg, stressed the importance of scaling up finance for forest action, including through the Green Gigaton Challenge, which aims to mobilize funds to pay for a gigaton of high-quality emissions reductions and removals from forests per year by 2025. He called for governments to provide public financing for these reductions and bridge the finance gap, adding that Luxembourg funds such efforts in Central America through public-private partnerships.
Mirey Atallah, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), moderated the session, which convened around two thematic discussions. She opened by noting that only 2% of climate finance is currently directed toward nature-based solutions to climate change, despite a clear call from the science for increased investments and accounting for nature.
Unlocking the potential of forests for high quality emissions reduction
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP, and UN Under-Secretary General, saluted current public and private pledges, but stressed the need for predictable, reliable, and up-front funding. Underscoring that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” she lamented that current reductions are “not going in the right direction,” but expressed hope regarding current initiatives, such as the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.
Ève Bazaiba, Deputy Prime Minister, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), spoke of the importance of forests for humanity, noting the DRC’s forest basin brings both enormous potential and a responsibility for the sustainable management of forests. She reminded G20 leaders that climate finance should not be considered charity, but rather a structural investment in climate mitigation. She also stressed that communities living in and from forests should be considered custodians of biodiversity, not a danger to forests. She called for further education and support.
Malik Amin Aslam, Minister for Climate Change, Pakistan, reflected on lessons from his country’s billion-tree reforestation plan as a means of economic recovery, including that:
- the forestry sector needs a zero-tolerance approach to illegal tree clearing and corruption;
- total transparency, including on financing and location of planting, ensures credibility;
- local communities must be involved in forest protection; and
- plans must be tailored to types of forest and location.
Andrea Meza, Environment and Energy Minister, Costa Rica, reflected on her country’s payments for ecosystem services plan. She added that the plan puts a tax on fossil fuels, which is then allocated to a forest fund that goes to various private and indigenous forest owners. In the future, she added, Costa Rica plans to scale up these projects to include landscape management such as mangrove and soil protection efforts.
Transitioning to a global forest finance architecture
On the finance gap in forest conservation and restoration, Amin Aslam said public finance is key to supporting initiatives. He pointed to Pakistan’s green and blue bonds, which enable access to lower-capital public finance that can help preserve forests and mangroves.
With respect to global financial aid for forest conservation in the Congo Basin, Bazaiba stressed the need for further contributions, including from private finance, as current contributions are insufficient to meet the Congo Basin’s needs.
Meza underlined that forests “cannot continue to be seen as a cheap solution,” pointing out they provide far more ecosystem services than carbon sequestration, including water generation and biodiversity protection. Andersen reminded the panel of the need for equity in forest finance and called on participants and world leaders to follow the leadership examples displayed on the panel related to forest protection and financing.
Eunsik Park, Secretary-General of the XV World Forestry Congress, closed the event by expressing the Republic of Korea’s support for the forest commitments made by world leaders to reverse forest loss by 2030. He added that reversing forest loss will be a main focus of the XV World Forestry Congress, inviting all to attend and to use it as a platform to promote inclusive solutions to forest protection.
Florian Eisele | [email protected]
Katrina Harina Borromeo | [email protected]
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