Committing to global forest monitoring

21 June 2023

The Plenary of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI) was held at FAO headquarters last month to boost forest monitoring in tropical countries and further action on climate change.

More than 300 representatives from governments, international organizations, leading research bodies and the private sector gathered in Rome last month to boost forest monitoring and further action on climate change in tropical countries through collaborative action. A further 500 participants joined the event online, making it a truly global gathering. More than 25 tropical countries were represented at the event.

The GFOI is a partnership working to help coordinate international support to tropical countries on forest and carbon monitoring for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+) and related activities.

The GFOI Plenary is the major gathering of forest and carbon monitoring practitioners. The Plenary brings this community together to assess recent progress, gather lessons learned and plan for how future assistance to countries can be delivered in a more efficient and effective manner.

“Better information on forests is key to enabling the global community to take decisive and significant action on climate change within this decade”, said Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director, Forestry Division.  “We need to help countries to operationalise monitoring systems and embed these in their national institutions.”

According to FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA 2020), despite some progress in reducing deforestation rates, ten million hectares of forest were lost annually due to deforestation between 2015 and 2020. As we move towards FRA 2025, “FAO will continue its work on improving the quality, accessibility and transparency of global data on forest resources”, said Anssi Pekkarinen (FAO), FRA team leader. 

In recognising the vital role that forests must play in an effective response to climate change, the Plenary’s final communiqué stressed the importance of ensuring the uptake of the technical information generated by the GFOI community into policy and decision-making processes, including potentially through the emerging Forest and Climate Leaders’ Partnership and other critical forums. 

GFOI Plenary: essential information for policy and decision-making

Countries with existing national forest monitoring systems and emissions measurement, reporting, and verification procedures shared their experiences. They  demonstrated how their data and systems can be used for effective policymaking and action on climate change. New initiatives were presented, such as 'the AIM4Forests programme', which represents “a critical step towards enhancing country capabilities in forest monitoring and management”, said Julian Fox (FAO), National Forest Monitoring team leader. 

During the event, there was a rich discussion on how forest information can support the implementation of REDD+ activities and the Enhanced Transparency Framework under the Paris Climate Agreement. Encouragingly, we are seeing a growing number of emissions reduction results submitted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the disbursement of performance-based payments for emissions reductions in some countries. Whilst credit for this encouraging progress rests with those countries for taking action to reduce emissions, many of them have been working with GFOI’s development partners to build their monitoring capabilities to inform their actions and track progress in their emissions reductions over time.

The GFOI Family of Resources was launched – an online platform for systematically organizing the vast technical resources available to support countries in monitoring their forests and associated GHG emissions.

The exhibition space showcased the latest products, services, and technologies related to forest monitoring.  

The critical role of women, Indigenous Peoples and local communities was also highlighted and as a result the need for the GFOI community to work closer with these important stakeholders was included in the communiqué. Climate actions also encompass “bolstering women’s right to land and resources”, stressed Amy Duchelle (FAO), Forests and Climate Change team leader.  

The GFOI Office organised the Plenary on behalf of GFOI's lead partners, various governments (Australia, Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America) as well as the participating international organizations, the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites, the European Space Agency and the World Bank.  

Recordings from the main sessions and side events, presentations, posters and interviews are available on the GFOI website

The official photo album can be accessed here.  

Follow @gfoi_forest on Twitter for future updates.  

Thanks to all the participants for having helped raise the initiative to new heights.