Boosting transparency of forest data

Open and reliable data key to scaling up conservation and sustainable use of forest resources


Forests provide nature-based solutions to some of the most significant challenges of our era, including climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation, hunger and poverty.
Many international commitments, including the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use and the Post-2020 Biodiversity Framework have recognized the roles forests play in mending negative impacts of human activity on the environment and sustaining healthy development.
Notable progress includes the increase in references to forests in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – countries’ high-level political commitments to implement low-carbon and climate-resilient actions under the Paris Agreement. However, more can be done, especially in those countries that have not yet explored the value of sustainably managing their forest resources.
To scale up actions that protect and sustainably use the world’s forests, good quality, reliable and open data and information on forest ecosystems and products are needed. The Forest Declaration recently adopted at the XV World Forestry Congress in Seoul, encourages wide uptake of technologies and mechanisms for the provision and equitable access of accurate information on forests, as such knowledge enables evidence-based decision-making and drives positive forest and landscape changes.

Science and transparency in forestry to trigger transformations in society

In the last few years, a collaboration between GEF and FAO, “Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest)”, supported countries’ ongoing efforts, and addressed their future needs and challenges, to improve transparency of forest-related data and information.
The CBIT-Forest project focused particularly on preparing developing countries to meet the requirements of the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement. Starting in 2024, all countries who have ratified the Paris Agreement will follow a single, common transparency process to build mutual trust and confidence that countries are making progress towards their national climate targets. Availability, accuracy, completeness, consistency and comparability of the information will form the basis of ETF-compliant forest monitoring and reporting at the national level.  
Below you can find a summary of the experiences and knowledge acquired throughout the implementation of the CBIT-forest project. For more insights and recommendations, download the publication “Towards open and transparent forest data for climate action: experiences and lessons learned”.

Key messages, lessons learned and examples

Open data platforms are invaluable:
•    Sharing openly can provide valuable time to build climate resilience
•    Climate policies need up-to-date and integrated information
•    Public money means public information
•    Help overcome obstacles to sharing
•    A lack of an initial data-hosting infrastructure is also often a deterrent in countries to open data
•    Can gather institutional, forest and legal expertise

Check out FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment data platform, available in six languages, including all the data and information from the latest report.

Virtual knowledge will play an important role in the years to come. A significant number of training materials have been published during the pandemic to overcome the barriers to hosting physical meetings and they can be reused many times. Some of the CBIT-forest training products include:
•   Massive open online course “Forests and transparency under the Paris Agreement”
•   eLearning courses
•   NFI eLearning modules
•   The national forest monitoring system (NFMS) assessment tool
•   Global webinars
•   Case studies on forests and transparency

Actions are needed to pave the way to open and transparent forest data, such as:
•    Enhancing quality, timeliness, accessibility and usability of global forest-related data in support of the transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement;
•    Developing capacities to work towards open and transparent data in pilot countries and at the global level through innovative global composite learning programmes combining virtual and in-person training;
•    Sharing knowledge as the international momentum builds surrounding forests and transparency; and
•    Cementing networks regionally and with new partners, such as academia, to ensure sustainability and transparency of forest reporting (read this story on 21 Latin American and Caribbean countries working together to harmonize National Forest Inventories).

Related links
•    Towards open and transparent forest data for climate action: experiences and lessons learned
•    The Seoul Forest Declaration
•    WFC Sub-theme 5 - Managing and communicating forest information, data and knowledge
•    Nationally Determined Contributions and REDD+: demonstrating the potential of forests for NDC Enhancement and Implementation
•    Linking REDD+, the Paris Agreement, Nationally Determined Contributions and the sustainable development goals