Forests: Stabilizing Climate and Supporting Development

November 8, 2016

Photo: CAD Productions / J. Capella

  • Over 100 countries included actions related to land-use change and forests in their nationally determined contributions to fight climate change
  • Investing in forests has the potential to reduce poverty, drive sustainable development and provide vital local and global environmental services
  • The World Bank Group supports forest initiatives in Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique that can help these countries meet their climate and development goals

With the Paris Agreement entering into force last week, negotiators at this year’s UN climate meeting (COP22) in Morocco are getting to work on the specific rules and guidance that will translate Paris commitments into action. Achieving the Agreement goals will require a strong focus on protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing all types of forests. 

Deforestation, forest degradation, and land use change account for around 12% of all greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, so it’s clear that forests will play a critical role in helping countries meet their nationally determined contributions to fight climate change.  The World Bank Group supports work with countries to meet these targets and address the impacts of climate change through its forest programs.

Last month, the BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (ISFL), along with the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the World Bank Group’s private sector arm) signed its first public-private partnership deal with Nespresso. The ISFL will provide $3 million through the IFC to Nespresso to support training activities implemented by the non-profit organization TechnoServe in Ethiopia.

Through the program, 20,000 farmers will be trained on standards for sustainable production and processing of coffee beans over two years. Assistance will also be provided to improve the operations of 77 wet mills (where coffee cherries are sorted through immersion in water) that process sustainably produced coffee. This landmark deal will be combined with a $3 million loan funded by the IFC.

As part of the deal with IFC, the project supports planting shade trees on coffee farms, which helps keep the microclimates in which the coffee grows cooler, in turn boosting productivity. The new shade trees can also restore degraded areas by reducing soil erosion, providing habitats for a wider variety of species, and improving water retention. And the carbon sequestered in the tree trunks, branches and leaves also helps address climate change. The results of this work will benefit farmers as well as reduce pressure on forests for agricultural land.

In participation with the Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to the second largest tropical forest in the world, presented the first-of-its-kind, large-scale program to curb forest loss and to improve the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities in June.  The work focuses on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation through results-based finance (known as REDD+). With this program, the DRC signaled the momentum to deliver on their national climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement.

The DRC initiative, in the Mai Ndombe region, encompasses 12.3 million hectares total (9.8 million of which are forest) and will focus on activities to address slash-and-burn agriculture, charcoal production, and logging, along with other drivers of deforestation. Collaboration with forest dwellers, NGOs and local communities have been an important part of the design of the initiative, and consultation plans have been validated by these groups to ensure active participation in decision making.

In Mozambique, an integrated portfolio of forest and landscape investments is helping to generate jobs and improve food security for rural communities, while delivering on its commitments to reduce deforestation by 40% and restore 1 million hectares of degraded forest and land. The Mozambique Conservation Areas for Biodiversity and Development Project, known as MozBio, is strengthening biodiversity conservation while creating sustainable livelihoods for local communities and growing tourism opportunities. The Mozambique Agriculture and Natural Resources Landscape Management Project is assisting rural communities with land titles, building value chains, increasing market access, and restoring degraded lands, impacting more than 20,000 households, particularly women.

An investment from the Forest Investment Program, a funding window of the Climate Investment Funds, will help tackle thorny issues of forest sector governance and help address illegal logging, the source of 90% of all traded wood. Combined, these investments, representing $140 million, will transform the landscapes in Mozambique, with carbon emission reductions rewarded by results-based payments through the Zambezia Integrated Landscape Program.

Investing in forests and trees has the potential to reduce poverty, drive sustainable development and provide vital local and global environmental services that matter for our planet. And, while there are still many unknowns when it comes to how the climate targets laid out in Paris will be met over the decades to come, these countries are showing that taking forest action now is an important first step.