REDD+ Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

To halt deforestation we must look at the ways we produce and consume our food


During the 25th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Committee on Forestrythe High-Level Dialogue on “Turning the Tide on Deforestation” engaged government, civil society, private sector actors, and representatives of FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Held on 6 October 2020, this event was a rallying call for innovative solutions and catalytic partnerships to halt deforestation and transform food systems.  

In light of the key role forests play in fighting climate change, biodiversity loss and poverty, awell as current trends in the state of forests, the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called for strong efforts to turn the tide on deforestation, asking FAO to co-lead UN system efforts to accelerate progress in halting deforestation and restoring forests. Agriculture – commercial and subsistence – is responsible for over 70% of deforestation. Therefore, sustainable agriculture and food systems transformation that halts deforestation is key to tackling climate change and safeguarding livelihoods and biodiversity. 

At COP25 in Madrid, Heads of UN agencies committed to the common goal of helping countries to reduce deforestation, and FAO’s Director-General, Qu Dongyu, called for transformational change in the way we produce and consume food, recalled Deputy Director-General Maria Helena SemedoDuring the High-Level Dialogue, she encouraged governments, and the private sector, to enable transformational changes in food systems that halt deforestation and make sustainable agricultural value chains the norm. Tim Christophersen, Head of UNEP’s Nature for Climate branch and event moderator, framed the dialogue in the context of the UN decades of action for the SDGs, on family farming and on ecosystem restoration. The outcomes of the dialogue will feed into three important international meetings in 2021: the Food Systems Summit, convened by the UNSG, the UNFCCC COP26 and CBD COP25. 

As COP26 President and upcoming President of the G7, the United Kingdom committed to providing leadership through its national actions and international partnerships, calling on governments to bring genuinely ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions to COP26 in 2021, and to increase support for nature-based solutions. Lord Zac Goldsmith, United Kingdom Minister of State for the Pacific and the Environment, underlined the need for both public and private sector action to “[take] on the perverse incentives… that perpetuate the destruction of forests, highlighting how the UK, as COP President, is bringing together key producer and consumer countries to shift global marketsand working towards a Just Rural Transition. The UK is also consulting on legislation that will ensure its supply chains for forest risk commodities comply with local environmental laws and avoid illegal deforestation. 

The European Union has developed a policy and regulatory agenda that capitalizes on its economic influence to protect the world’s forests and transition to sustainable food systems. Notably, this started with the 2003 EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan and EU Timber Regulation, which requires due diligence to avoid illegal logging. The EU passed its Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, its Farm to Fork Strategy in 2020 and plans to push for stronger private sector sustainable sourcing commitments and corporate due diligence. European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, also highlighted the establishment of a new multi-stakeholder platform on deforestation and an observatory to facilitate information on global deforestation using earth observation and trade data, as well as an ongoing study into certification schemes. Noting the importance of joint action to achieve global impact, the Commissioner announced tailored “forest partnerships” between the EU and partner countries, which will facilitate inter-sectoral dialogue and support increased sustainability in agricultural value chains linked to deforestationand the upscaling of EU support to sustainable cocoa value chains in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. 

Combating deforestation and preventing fires are central to Indonesia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), said Vice Minister of Environment and Forestry Alue DuhongIndonesia has significantly reduced its deforestation rate by using technology and early warning systems to control and reduce land and forest fires; collaborating across all levels for improved peatland management; banning new licenses for logging and peatland utilization in 2019 (following the 2011-2013 moratorium); and strong support from law enforcement. Engagement with communities has been essential to the restoration of mangrovespeatlands and forest landscapes, and social forestry is a priority, with licenses granted to more than 870,000 households since 2016. Indonesia has actively supported the forest sector, protected forests, and promoted employment in its COVID-19 response and recovery measures, prioritizing labor-intensive activities such as forest rehabilitation. To address the risk of illegal logging, the government has enhanced patrolling - including by local communities - and ensured consistent operation of its Timber Legality Assurance System. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is taking measures to support agricultural production and reduce poverty while protecting forests, among them, promoting sustainable forest and land management practices, agricultural diversification and early warning systems based on cross-ministerial collaboration, as well as restoration of degraded lands and natural ecosystems, in the context of the Pan-African Initiative AFR100The country’s Vice Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Jeanne Ilanga Zaina, cited the specific successes of agroforestry, community-based adaptation, and integrated REDD+ projects. She reiterated the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission’s call on FAO to help countries analyze and address the drivers of deforestation, to mobilize and access climate finance,  support the harmonization of forest and agricultural policies, promote the engagement of women and youth in sustainable economic activities and to support the development and operation of national forest monitoring systems. 

Responsible consumption and bold action to make food production and trade more efficient, reduce waste and shift to healthier diets is needed to reduce the footprint of agriculture on forests, said Ester Asin, Director of WWF International’s European Policy Office. She highlighted the positive momentum of the Leader’s Pledge for Nature and the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit. Ms Asin advocated for strong policy frameworks and legislation from demand-side governments to ensure a consistent market for sustainable commodities and emphasized that they should partner with supply-side governments to provide technical and financial support for ‘nature-positive production’. Inclusive and bottom-up approaches that embrace the key role of local communities and indigenous peoples, and take into account civil society perspectives, are crucial.  

Business sector interest in forests – and commitments to reduce deforestation from supply chains - have grown immensely in recent yearsobserved Justin Adams. Mr Adams, Executive Director of the Tropical Forest Alliance hosted at the World Economic Forum, pointed to the importance of public-private partnership and collective actionHe noted the unique ability of the private sector to quickly mobilize and scale up action to meet a clear market need and he set out recommendations for governments to enable this catalytic action. For instance, governments should lead development of integrated landscape plans, clarify tenure and strengthen governance to help attract investment, enable markets for sustainable food and agroforestry products and environmental services, and use blended finance, tapping into the trillions of dollars belonging to investors looking to finance activities that drive positive change.  

German Velasquez, Director of the Mitigation and Adaptation Division of the Green Climate Fund, noted the opportunity for nature-based solutions to contribute to COVID-19 recovery. The GCF has integrated green recovery into its $500 million pilot programme for REDD+ Results-based payments in 2020While these funds will be exhausted in November, the Board is designing a new phase of the programme that better integrates the private sector. The GCF is currently developing sector guidance, which includes work on deforestation-free supply chains. Finally, Mr Velasquez spoke about how the GCF partnerwith both national and international entities and is able to work with instruments ranging from grants to concessional lending, equities and guarantees. 

Closing the session, Mette Wilkie, Director of FAO’s Forestry Division, pointed to the longstanding work FAO has undertaken to halt deforestation in over 60 countries, with UNEP and UNDP, under the UN-REDD Programme, and the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme’s support to forest governance. According to Ms Wilkie, FAO is working to transform food systems to feed the planet without deforestation, stepping up as liaison with the private sector, in support of deforestation free commodities and inclusive and sustainable agricultural and forestry value chains and is helping countries to access international climate finance, including REDD+ results-based payments. 

Watch the session’s recording below: 

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