Synergies between private sector and governments crucial for reversing deforestation – COFO High-level Dialogue

6 October 2020, Rome - Reversing deforestation and forest degradation can be an effective “nature-based solution” to climate change but requires the strong involvement of the private sector and greater collaboration among land-use sectors, according to speakers at the High-Level Dialogue on Turning the Tide on Deforestation, held today as part of the 25th Session of FAO’s Committee on Forestry (COFO).

FAO is helping build a UN-wide intervention – led by the UN Secretary-General – aimed at turning the tide on deforestation. This effort includes (among other things) strengthening work with the private sector on deforestation-free value chains; helping countries gain greater access to climate finance; and increasing collaboration across the agriculture sectors.

“Food security, agriculture and forestry should be approached holistically and systematically,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo during the dialogue.

Nature-based solutions could provide one-third of the measures needed to mitigate climate change, according to Lord Zac Goldsmith (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), but such solutions attract less than 3 percent of global climate finance. Public money alone will not solve this issue,said Lord Goldsmith, and governments should use their influence to leverage markets.

Participants in the High-level Dialogue noted that sustainable agriculture, and a transformation of food systems that works to halt deforestation, are key to tackling climate change, safeguarding livelihoods and biodiversity, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Land conversion due to deforestation and agriculture is responsible for approximate 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and hence climate goals cannot be met without halting deforestation.

Dialogue participants heard that there has been exponential growth in private-sector interest in forests in the last several years, and there was also greater private-sector recognition of the urgent need for action. The systemic change needed can best be achieved through partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF)’s German Velasquez said that the GCFis an important resource for nature-based solutions to climate change, but leveraging the private sector is also crucial.The GCF is examining how to encourage deforestation-free supply chains, which will require strong private-sector engagement.

Several dialogue panellists spoke about actions underway at the national level to help curb deforestation and encourage synergies. Alue Duhong, the Indonesian Vice-Minister of Environment and Forestry, reported on efforts to accelerate the social forestry programme in his country. To date, he said, 4.2 million hectares have been transferred to more than 800,000 households.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Union Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, described effortsin the European Union to accelerate a transition to sustainable food systems and to support other countries in combating deforestation and adopting sustainable agricultural practices.

H. E. Jeanne Ilunga Zaina of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said that her country is committed to restoring 8 million hectares of degraded land as part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative. She outlined measures FAO could take to assist its member states, including by supporting the regulation of small-scale forest enterprises and helping to access funds in the GCF and the Global Environment Facility.

Ester Asin, Director of the European Policy Office at WWF International, noted that more than 60 heads of state had recently committed to the “Leaders’ Pledge for Nature”, which outlines ten actions that will help the world achieve the vision of living in harmony with nature by 2050. The pledge includes a commitment to supporting sustainable supply chains to reduce the impact on ecosystems caused by global demand for commodities.

Ms Semedo said that, among other things, curbing deforestation was important for reducing the potential for outbreaks of novel diseases.

“To mitigate future pandemics, we must maintain an ecosystem approach,” she said. “Healthy forests are essential for building back better.”

The 25th Session of COFO is convening virtually on 5–9 October 2020. More information on the session is available at http://www.fao.org/about/meetings/cofo/en/.

last updated:  Wednesday, October 7, 2020