Accelerating action on forests and trees for climate adaptation

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano27 July 2023, Rome - Forests and trees have a pivotal role to play in helping humanity adapt to climate change. A recent workshop organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF) considered practical ways to ensure this potential is realized.

At the event, on the sidelines of the UNFCCC Climate Talks in Bonn on 11 June, 30 participants representing a wide range of stakeholders discussed the benefits that forests and trees can provide for climate adaptation, particularly in developing countries, and how to finance further action.

“Momentum has grown in recent years for forests and trees to be integrated into national adaptation strategies. This workshop strengthened collaboration networks and helped identify ways to turn plans into action,” says FAO’s Amy Duchelle, Senior Forestry Officer and Team Leader of Forests and Climate.

Forests and trees function in ways that are fundamental for life on earth - providing food, fresh water, quality soil, shade and shelter. Forest-based adaptation is about recognizing this and conserving, restoring and sustainably using this vital natural resource to help humanity adapt and build resilience to climate change. Key to this will be making sure forests themselves can adapt and thrive in increasingly challenging conditions.

The participants, representing governments, financial institutions, technical and research agencies, Indigenous Peoples’ groups, civil society and the private sector, shared examples of successful initiatives such as one in Ethiopia where women who have grown fruit trees to adapt to the worst drought in decades.

They also discussed the particular importance of forest-based adaptation for vulnerable communities in developing countries and how to overcome needs and gaps and mobilize funding.

The IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6, 2022) recognizes forest-based adaptation and agroforestry as highly feasible adaptation measures with synergies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). FAO, in partnership with CIFOR-ICRAF, identified in a recent report (2022) a range of principles and actions by which forests and trees can support transformational adaptation. 

Climate change mitigation still receives the biggest share of climate finance and many climate mechanisms do not offer specific funding for forest-based adaptation. Some countries have, however, mobilized REDD+ strategies to unlock funding. In Ghana, for example, the Shea Landscape Emission Reductions Project, financed by the Green Climate Fund, provides alternative livelihoods, poverty alleviation and women’s empowerment, with mitigation co-benefits.

To secure more funding, the group agreed, it will be essential to develop more robust ways of monitoring the progress and outcomes of forest-based adaptation initiatives.

“Using trees and forests for adaptation is no silver bullet solution: it relies heavily on knowledge to provide suitable options for a diversity of local contexts and priorities” said Vincent Gitz, CIFOR-ICRAF Director of Program and Platforms. Platforms such as TreesAdapt are key to capitalizing on existing science and knowledge.

Participants also emphasized the need to consider Indigenous Peoples and local communities who manage forests around the world as key partners in developing policy and putting it into practice. They need better access to climate finance and support to build technical capacity that complements their traditional knowledge.

Three key areas were identified as key priorities going forward: bolstering monitoring, evaluation and learning systems, enhancing funding mechanisms, and actively promoting cross-sectoral synergies.

FAO and CIFOR-ICRAF will offer learning events in different regions in future, to continue to promote forest-based adaptation.

last updated:  Thursday, July 27, 2023