COP26 ‒ the Forest COP

The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow has well and truly come to an end with the Glasgow Climate Pact. COP26 has been defined by many as “the Forest COP”. Indeed, there was a real focus on nature, forests, and Earth Observations (EO) during this year’s COP, all topics well related to the Global Forest Observations Initiative’s (GFOI) core work. Below you will find a summary of the main outcomes toward sustainable management and conservation of the world’s forests.

Countless forest related-announcements and pledges were made by countries and organizations at COP26, including by GFOI’s partners:

1.    The biggest development was the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. Made by over 140 countries accounting for more than 90 percent of the world’s forests, the Declaration commits its parties to work together to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. The Declaration was released during the World Leaders Summit ‘Action on Forests and Land Use’, which brought together governments, companies, financial actors, and non-state leaders. It represents a major development in efforts to reduce tropical forest loss and address climate change.

2.    The Global Forest Finance Pledge by 12 donor governments to protect, restore and sustainably manage forests by collectively providing 12 billion USD of public finance for forest-related climate action between in20212025.

3.    The Congo Basin Joint Donor Statement by 11 donors and the Bezos Earth Fund commit to a collective pledge of at least 1.5 billion USD in 2021-2025 to protect and maintain Central Africa’s Congo Basin forests, peatlands, and other critical global carbon stores.

4.    The Forest Tenure Joint Donor Statement by 23 donor governments and philanthropic foundations commit to an initial collective pledge of 1.7 billion USD to support land rights for indigenous people and local communities in 2021-2025. This statement recognizes the critical guardianship provided by Indigenous Peoples and local communities in protecting tropical forests and hence the importance to advance support Tenure Rights and their Forest Guardianship.

Frank-Martin Seifert ©ESA

Lead partners at COP26 covered GFOI’s work to improve forest carbon monitoring capabilities, which aims to deliver information, transparency, and confidence to the sector and help enable the achievement of all of these pledges.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) invited GFOI to present new guidance and tools, including the OpenMRV platform, for supporting countries to design and implement their NFMS and associated MRV procedures, during its REDD+ side event: Curtailing deforestation: How to measure progress. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also presented tools that countries use in their national forest monitoring systems (NFMS) and to compile their REDD+ submissions to the UNFCCC. During the Earth Information Day, GFOI was presented as an example for implementation and capacity building and a GFOI poster was presented by the European Space Agency (ESA), together with a video developed by the U.S. SilvaCarbon programme to mark its 10th anniversary. Space for Climate invited a GFOI to highlight the role of forests and trees in climate during their side event “Monitoring the lungs of the World from Space” in the Green Zone. ESA also presented GFOI’s interaction with countries in a side event on EO for Climate Action at the European Pavilion.

Other forest-related announcements from GFOI’s Leads are covered here below.

Norway and the U.K. are involved in the LEAF Coalition (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance), a voluntary global coalition bringing together the private sector and governments to provide finance for tropical and subtropical forest conservation. During COP, LEAF announced the mobilization of 1 billion USD for a number of projects in tropical countries (listed here). The number of participating companies has risen to 19 and the first five LOIs were signed with Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Nepal, and Vietnam as well as an MoU with the Brazilian Amazon states. LEAF is going to match projects with private companies that are looking to pay for emissions reduction verified under the REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard (TREES) developed by ART in 2022 and beyond.

Germany, Norway, and the U.K. announced they will provide 30 million USD in the context of results-based payments to Colombia, to be reinvested in innovative actions to catalyse further progress on Colombia´s forest targets.

In the context of the bilateral REDD+, Norway also announced an extended collaboration with Ecuador until 2022 when LEAF will start there, as well as a new deal with Costa Rica since they are still generating results for 2017 and onwards this year. These agreements will certainly foster the production of emission reductions estimates and enhance their integrity. Ensuring the integrity of emissions reduction enhancement is key for FAO, and along these lines goes the extension of the existing satellite data processing platform  System for Earth observations, data access, Processing, and Analysis for Land monitoring (SEPAL), again with support from Norway.  

Germany also announced its support to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)’s Amazon Initiative to promote sustainable landscapes and forest protection in the Amazon region. The governments of Germany and the Netherlands pledged to each contribute 17.5 million USD toward a new Amazon Bioeconomy and Forest Management Multi-Donor Trust Fund. The IDB’s Amazon Initiative promotes sustainable development models based on human capital, natural wealth, and the Amazon region’s cultural heritage. The initiative will be implemented in coordination with the Amazonian countries and the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO).

The Australian Government is partnering with countries in the Indo-Pacific region to reduce emissions through the Indo-Pacific Carbon Offsets Scheme. The programme will provide 104 million AUD for climate action and will run until 2031. The goal is to help partner countries generate and trade high-integrity carbon offsets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement.

The United States initiated a forest Investor Club, committed to increasing the scale and geographic scope of investment in restoration, conservation, sustainable agriculture and forestry, and green infrastructure. The U.S. also announced the Forest Finance Risk Consortium, which will bring together financial institutions and experts in forest monitoring and climate finance disclosure to better assess and disclose exposure to forest-related emissions in investment portfolios.

In the lead-up to COP26, the Government of Mozambique became the first country to receive performance-based payments from the World Bank administered Carbon Fund of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) which is a GFOI Lead partner along with many of its donors. This represented a significant milestone for Mozambique and global efforts to operationalize REDD+ activities and shows that after several years of preparations, forests are playing a central role in global efforts to address climate change.

María José Sanz ©ESA

Finally, some interesting products have been presented:

  • the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites launched a new portal to help countries access data and guidance from space agencies to implement the Global Stocktake of the Paris Agreement. This includes world-first, pilot top-down budgets of CO2 and CH4 emissions at national scales to support the first GST in 2023;
  • the Group on Earth Observations published a report that maps capacities to monitor greenhouse gas emissions from space, based largely on the CEOS Database of Satellite Missions;
  • FAO also unveiled the first results of its Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2020 Remote Sensing Survey. They have been mentioned during the CPF High-Level Dialogue of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests entitled “Upscaling Actions to Turn the Tide on Deforestation”, and officially launched during a side event (watch the recording). Spoiler: agricultural expansion drives almost 90 percent of global deforestation - an impact much greater than previously thought. Read more findings.

If we haven’t got you covered, please check this very nice summary on forest outcomes compiled by the UNFCCC and a collection of interesting events compiled by GEO.

To keep alive the target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we must halt forest loss this decade. The GFOI community stands ready to help convert COP26 pledges into action.

Continue to follow us in 2022 to discover how a globally coordinated approach to forest carbon monitoring can make this come true.