Building the capacity of developing countries to protect and preserve their rainforests
September 20, 2019
Recent images of forest fires across the Amazon rainforest have caught the attention of the world. There have been more than 74,000 fires in Brazil this year, an increase of 84% on the same period last year, more than half of which are in the Amazon. Fires in the Congo Basin may even be greater in extent. However, these are not isolated or one-off events. Demand for agriculture is driving land clearance and climate change induced changes in weather will continue to increase the likelihood, scale and impact of wildfires globally.
Figure 1: NASA Satellite map of fires in the last 24 hours (29/08/2019). Source: NASA (2019)
The essential role of forests in the fight against climate change
Forests absorb approximately 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2 each year and store billions more. They provide important ecosystem services such as clean water and healthy soils, hold high levels of endemic biodiversity, and are essential to the livelihoods of over one billion people. Efforts should focus on halting deforestation, but speeding up reforestation and afforestation are also crucial if the world is to meet the limits agreed in the Paris Agreement. Forests face multiple demands which are likely to intensify as the climate crisis worsens. Increasing land for growing crops can be at odds with using more space for bioenergy production, or preserving forests as carbon stores. And forest-rich countries often want to use the land to drive economic growth. So measures to support them in reducing deforestation and forest degradation are essential. However, often these are in developing countries where policies, law enforcement and finance flows are poor.
Initiatives and incentives can help protect our forests
REDD+ (reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) initiatives can help address the financing gap in forest conservation. REDD+ offers incentives for developing countries to conserve and restore forest lands, through the receipt of results-based payments. However, despite offering large-scale cost-effective emissions reductions, there has been limited investment and prioritisation by governments in REDD+ solutions, hindered by a lack of robust data and technical capacity, financial capabilities and often insufficient political will.
The Norwegian government has been a major supporter of solutions to address this gap, investing several billion dollars into projects aimed at conserving tropical forests and reducing the associated greenhouse gas emissions and funding capacity-building in countries with payments based on verified results.
One such initiative is the Reporting for Results-based REDD+ (RRR+) project. This three-year project (2016-2019) set out to build capacity for measuring and reporting on reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhancement of carbon stocks in agriculture, forestry and across other types of natural land use (the AFOLU sector) in 21 tropical and subtropical forest countries. The project was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD) through the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and implemented by the Coalition for Rainforest Nations (CfRN) and PwC on behalf of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
The RRR+ project provided training and support to assist developing countries to produce more technically robust inventories of domestic GHG emissions from forests and other natural land uses, compliant with the methods and guidelines stipulated by the IPCC - the international authority on reporting emissions and carbon stocks. This not only provides countries with a better understanding of their AFOLU sector, it also provides greater market confidence in the data, which is essential for enhancing the flow of REDD+ finance. The project principally worked with technical specialists for these countries with the ultimate goal of helping these countries to secure results based REDD+ payments.
The project provided participating countries with training through in-country workshops on how to strengthen institutions, systems and processes to report their GHG emissions and removals to the UNFCCC. As a result of the support, thirteen countries have reported an enhanced understanding of the national institutional arrangements required for GHG inventory compilation and reporting, and eleven countries have successfully produced GHG inventories in the AFOLU sector ready to be included in their submission to the UNFCCC.
If countries reach consensus on international cooperation mechanisms such as carbon markets at climate talks in Chile later this year, then transparent, robust and reliable data and reporting will be essential for building the integrity of and confidence in these systems. While much hinges on the outcome of the upcoming negotiations, should land-based offsets through programmes like REDD+ be included in carbon offset markets such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, the demand for reliable and trustworthy projects will increase, providing the private sector with the necessary motive to support rainforest protection projects.
Overall, the RRR+ project has created the foundations for new carbon solutions. It’s provided countries with vital opportunities to build capacity for measuring and reporting on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and enhancement of carbon stocks. It’s provided critical support to enable countries to navigate through the complex UNFCCC processes for reporting land-based emissions. And it’s provided opportunities for stakeholders to come together and share learning. Further information about the project can be found here.