World’s Forests Going Up in Smoke

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

A forest of Nothofagus antarctica trees burned in a fire that covered 40,000 acres in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile in 2012. (Photo by Dave McWethy) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

CONCEPCION, Chile, August 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Chile has replaced many of its native forests with plantation forests to supply pulp and timber mills that produce paper and wood products. As a result, highly flammable non-native pine and eucalypt forests now cover the region.

Eucalypt trees, which are native to Australia, and pine trees native to the United States contain oils and resins in their leaves that, when dry, can easily ignite.

Researchers have discovered some reasons why massive fires continue to burn through south-central Chile. Their results were published August 22, in “PLOS ONE,” an online scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

Lead author Dave McWethy, an assistant professor in Montana State University’s Department of Earth Sciences, received a Fulbright grant that sent him to Chile from 2015-2016 to research the wildfires and teach at the University of Concepcion.

“Chile replaced more heterogenous, less flammable native forests with structurally homogenous, flammable exotic forest plantations at a time when the climate is becoming warmer and drier,” said McWethy. “This situation will likely facilitate future fires to spread more easily and promote more large fires into the future.”

Besides low humidity, high winds and extreme temperatures – some of the same factors contributing to fires raging elsewhere in the world – central Chile is experiencing a mega-drought and large portions of its diverse native forests have been converted to more flammable tree plantations, the researchers said.

Co-author Anibal Pauchard, professor at the University of Concepcion and researcher at the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity in Chile, said wildfires have been a part of the Chilean landscape for centuries, but they have grown larger and more intense in recent decades, despite costly government efforts to control them.

“Unfortunately, fires in central Chile are promoted by increasing human ignitions, drier and hotter climate, and the availability of abundant flammable fuels associated with pine plantations and degraded shrublands dominated by invasive species,” Pauchard said.

In 2016-2017 alone, fires burned nearly 1.5 million acres of Chilean forests, almost twice the area of the U.S. state of Rhode Island. It was the largest area burned during a single fire season since detailed recordkeeping began in the early 1960s.

The devastation prompted the Chilean government to ask what land-use policies and environmental factors were behind these fires, McWethy said. That led to a national debate about preventing and reducing the consequences of future fires.

McWethy said wildfires in south-central Chile and the western U.S. are affected by many of the same conditions, but the main difference is that native forests in the western U.S. are well-adapted to fire. In Chile, most native forests in the central and southern regions are not.

To better understand the Chilean fires, the researchers compared satellite information with records from the Chilean Forest Service for 2001 through 2017. They studied eight types of vegetation, climate conditions, elevation, slope and population density across a wide range of latitudes in Chile.

“Now we have compelling evidence that after climate, landscape composition is crucial in determining fire regimes. In particular, exotic forest plantations need to be managed to purposely reduce fire hazard,” Pauchard said. “Which forestry species we plant and how we manage them matters in terms of fire frequency and intensity.”

The researchers recommend that Chile move away from exotic plantations toward more diverse, less flammable native forests.

“Protecting and restoring native forests would likely buffer the negative impacts of fires that are projected to continue to increase into the future,” McWethy said, but that will be difficult to do. “So much of the landscape has changed in south-central Chile,” he said, “that it’s going to be difficult to restore,”

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Firefighter overlooks the Donnell Fire, which started from unknown causes on August 1, 2018 near Donnell Reservoir, burning into the Stanislaus National Forest. August 18, 2018 (Photo by Josiah Dewey) Creative Commons license via Flickr

North American Forests Drying and Frying

Rising average temperatures have led to forests in Western North America drying out, increasing the risk of fires.

There are 129 million dead trees in California alone. Across California, the total number of fires is trending downward, but the size of fires is going up.

The West Coast of the United States is shrouded in smoke. Currently, more than two million acres have burned in 111 large fires in 13 states. Over 1.9 million acres (768,900 hectares) are or have been ablaze.

Six new large fires were reported in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon over the weekend and eight large fires have been contained, including the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park in California.

The weather concerns in the area include warmer than average temperatures that will continue in the west with daily winds and overnight humidity recoveries that are just marginal.

The Province of British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast has declared a state of emergency as thousands of firefighters battle more than 560 wildfires.

Fifty-eight large wildfires are destroying forests across the province, filling the skies with smoke. Overall, 565 fires are threatening more than 20,000 people who are on evacuation alert or under evacuation order.

“We’re going to throw everything we’ve got at these fires, but in a lot of cases, Mother Nature is going to be in the driver’s seat,” Kevin Skrepnek, the province’s chief fire information officer, told reporters.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet with first responders and British Columbians displaced by the wildfires on Thursday.

Trudeau met with B.C. Premier John Horgan in the British Columbia town of Nanaimo late Tuesday afternoon, ahead of a retreat with his newly-shuffled cabinet.

“Our thoughts are with the first responders, the firefighters and the residents who are struggling through the wildfires that are raging across the province,” Trudeau said.

In eastern Canada, firefighters from across the continent, from Wisconsin and Mexico are assisting Ontario forest firefighters in their battles with one of the worst fire seasons on record.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry reports 1,108 fires across Ontario this year, compared to 618 in 2017. The 10-year average is 643 fires in the province.

Fires Sweep Europe

England’s peatland moors, Ireland, Sweden, Scandinavia and even areas north of the Arctic Circle experienced major fires over the past two months.

At least 15 EU countries have experienced more wildfires than usual for this time of year, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

The number of wildfires ravaging Europe this year is 43 percent higher than the average for the last 10 years.

Several European countries are in the grip of unprecedented wildfires. While the deadly fires in Greece now are under control, dozens of fires are blazing across Turkey, Italy and Cyprus.

With Europe in the grip of a heatwave and with little rain to ease the drought, fires have now broken out as far north as the Arctic Circle, in Sweden.

An estimated 50 fires are now burning in Sweden. Through July there were three times as many fires during this period as last year.

Jonas Olsson from the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute said, “It’s very, very dry in most of Sweden. The flows in the rivers and lakes are exceptionally low, except in the very northern part of the country. We have water shortages.”

“Rainfall has only been around a seventh of the normal amount, the lowest since record-keeping began in the late 19th century,” Olsson said.

European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The devastating forest fires in Sweden have highlighted once again the impact of climate change and that we are facing a new reality.”

The number of forest fires in the European Union more than doubled from 2016 to 2017, figures obtained by Euronews show. Experts blame climate change for the increase, saying it has lengthened the traditional wildfire season and raised the frequency of fires.

There were 1,671 blazes in 2017, a huge increase over the 639 the EU saw annually on average during the previous eight years.

Russian Fires Not Extinguished

This year, fires have already affected an estimated area of more than 90,000 hectares in Siberia and the Russian Far East.

Lakes in Yakutia were still frozen at the end of May, but that ice has been replaced by fire after persistent heat over Siberia.

For example, on July 29, a total of 66 wildfires covering an area of 14,888 hectares were put out over 24 hours across Russia, the press service of the Federal Aerial Forest Fire Service (FAFFS) reported.

The hardest hit by wildfires were the Krasnoyarsk Region and Yakutia, where 39,600 and 21,000 hectares of woodland respectively were engulfed in flames. About 3,200 hectares were hit by wildfires in the Magadan region, and more than 2,300 in the Irkutsk region.

These fires were not put out as the firefighting expenses exceed the forecasted damage, FAFFS stated.

The northern part of the world is warming faster than the planet as a whole, says the World Meteorological Organization. That heat is drying out forests and making them more susceptible to burning. A recent study found Earth’s boreal forests are now burning at a rate unseen in at least 10,000 years.

Featured Image:  Polish firefighters in action combating the wildfires Sweden. July 24, 2018 (Photo by Pavel Koubek / European Union) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

Tax Havens Enable Illegal Logging, Fishing

George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is known as a financial hub and a port of call for cruise ships. Dec. 7, 2017 (Photo by Jorge Brazilian) Creative Commons license via Flickr

George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands, is known as a financial hub and a port of call for cruise ships. Dec. 7, 2017 (Photo by Jorge Brazilian) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 21, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Tax havens such as Singapore, Panama and the Cayman Islands provide financial secrecy for industries associated with environmentally destructive activities on a global scale, new research demonstrates.

The first study to show how tax havens are linked to economic sectors that can have serious global environmental impacts has been published by a team of Swedish researchers.

“Our analysis shows that the use of tax havens is not only a socio-political and economic challenge, but also an environmental one,” says Victor Galaz, lead author of the new study, published in the journal “Nature Ecology and Evolution.”

“While the use of tax haven jurisdictions is not illegal in itself,” he explains, “financial secrecy hampers the ability to analyze how financial flows affect economic activities on the ground, and their environmental impacts.”

The study, titled “Tax havens and global environmental degradation” is part of an on-going research project called “Earth System Finance: New perspectives on financial markets and sustainability.”

Researchers on the study are from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) at Stockholm University and Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB), Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

The analysis was conducted in collaboration with the nonprofit global research platform Future Earth, which aims to “transform the world toward sustainability” with the participation of thousands of scientists.

Connecting Tax Havens With Illegal Fishing

The new research reveals that 70 percent of known vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are, or have been, flagged under a tax haven jurisdiction, in particular Belize and Panama.

Many tax havens are also flags of convenience states. These are countries with limited monitoring and enforcement capacity that do not penalize vessels sailing under their flag even if they are identified as operating in violation of international law.

The combination of tax havens and flags of convenience allow companies to sail fishing vessels with dual identities – one for legal and the other for illegal fishing activities.

“The global nature of fisheries value chains, complex ownership structures and limited governance capacities of many coastal nations, make the sector susceptible to the use of tax havens,” says co-author Henrik Österblom, deputy science director at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

The analysis of tax havens’ role in unsustainable and illegal fishing activities was made by combining multiple datasets on fishing vessels and flag information, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Fishing Vessel Finder, data from Regional Fisheries Management Organizations, and Interpol.

“The absence of a more systemic view is not surprising considering the chronic lack of data resulting from the financial opaqueness created by the use of these jurisdictions,” says co-author Beatrice Crona, GEDB executive director.

This lack of transparency hides how tax havens are linked to degradation of environmental commons that are crucial for both people and planet at global scales, Crona says.

The Amazon rainforest provides for all by stabilizing the Earth’s climate system, while the ocean provides a vital source of protein and income for millions of people worldwide, particularly in low-income, food-deficit countries.

An illegal timber site in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, July 6, 2007 (Photo by Joelle Hernandez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

An illegal timber site in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, July 6, 2007 (Photo by Joelle Hernandez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Hiding the Flow of Funds to Log the Amazon

The paper features the first quantification of foreign capital that flows into the beef and soy sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon, two sectors linked to deforestation.

The underlying dataset, based on data from the Central Bank of Brazil, includes “register of foreign capital” for the period between October 2000 and August 2011.

This allowed the researchers to make the first quantification ever of flows of foreign capital from financial actors based outside of Brazil to the beef and soy sector operating in the Brazilian Amazon.

The Cayman Islands turned out to be the largest transfer jurisdiction for foreign capital to these sectors operating in the Brazilian Amazon.

This well-known tax haven provides three benefits to investors: legal efficiency, tax-minimization and secrecy.

Future Governance Can Improve

The authors suggest three issues they believe should be central in future research efforts and governance of tax havens:

1) The loss of tax revenue caused by tax havens should be considered as indirect subsidies to economic activities with negative impacts on global commons;

2) Leading international fora and organizations, like UN Environment, should assess the environmental costs of these subsidies;

3) The international community should view tax evasion and aggressive tax planning as not only a socio-political problem, but also as an environmental one.

Where Are the Tax Havens?

There is no precise definition of a tax haven. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) initially listed these features of tax havens: no or low taxes, lack of effective exchange of information, lack of transparency, and no requirement of substantial activity. Other lists have been developed in legislative proposals and by researchers.

Table 1: Countries on Tax Haven Lists

Caribbean/West Indies: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Turks and Caicos, U.S. Virgin Islands

Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, Panama

Coast of East Asia: Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore

Europe/Mediterranean: Andorra, Channel Islands (Guernsey and Jersey), Cyprus, Gibralter, Isle of Man,

Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland

Indian Ocean: Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles

Middle East: Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon

North Atlantic: Bermuda

Pacific: South Pacific Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Nauru, Niue, Tonga, Vanuatu

West Africa: Liberia

The Tax Justice Network probably has the largest list of tax havens. In addition to the countries listed in Table 1, they include in the Americas and Caribbean, New York and Uruguay; in Africa, Mellila, Sao Tome e Principe, Somalia, and South Africa; in the Middle East and Asia, Dubai, Labuan (Malaysia), Tel Aviv, and Taipei; in Europe, Alderney, Belgium, Campione d’Italia, City of London, Dublin, Ingushetia, Madeira, Sark, Trieste, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and Frankfurt; and in the Indian and Pacific oceans, the Marianas.

Featured Image: Tuna is trans-shipped from an illegal, unregistered and unlicensed (IUU) purse seine fishing vessel onto a cold storage vessel, on the high seas, close to the border with Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Greenpeace caught the two vessels breaching international law by trans-shipping large quantities of tuna in international waters. In addition to breaking international law, the fishing of juvenile yellowfin tuna is unsustainable. November 24, 2011 (Photo by Alex Hofford / Greenpeace Australia Pacific) Media use permitted


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

Refugees Depend on Trees

Refugees arrive from South Sudan at Uganda's Bidibidi settlement camp. September 7, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Refugees arrive from South Sudan at Uganda’s Bidibidi settlement camp. September 7, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, June 26, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – To help regenerate forests in areas hosting displaced people and refugees where heavy reliance on wood fuel puts forests and woodlands in jeopardy, two UN agencies have published a new handbook promoting sustainable livelihood opportunities through community-managed forests.

For their handbook, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calculate that there are 68.5 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide, 80 percent of whom rely on wood fuel for cooking and heating.

In areas hosting displaced people, often with scant resources of their own, dependence on wood fuel is especially pronounced.

“The massive increase in demand for woodfuel for cooking caused by sudden influxes of refugees and other displaced people is usually the main driver of forest degradation and deforestation in displacement settings. It places enormous pressure on nearby forests and woodlands and is often a source of tension between the host and displaced communities,” write Shukri Ahmed, deputy strategic programme leader, Resilience, FAO; and Craig Sanders, deputy director, Division of Programme Support and Management, UNHCR, in their Foreword to the handbook.

A lack of sufficient cooking fuel also has an impact on the nutrition and health of vulnerable people in such settings, they point out.

When a settlement is created for displaced people, it is often considered to be temporary. Yet in reality, displacements last, on average, more than 20 years, evolving into protracted crises and creating tough living conditions that undermine human health and prevent inhabitants from pursuing their usual livelihoods.

Planning the appropriate management of forests and woodlands in displacement settings is important, in both the short and long term, for ensuring sustainable energy access, minimizing environmental and social impacts, and building resilience in households and communities, the handbook states.

“As protracted crises increase, we have seen much degraded, treeless land in displacement settings. FAO and UNHCR have developed the long-term solutions required to create lasting, renewable sources of energy, food and income. We just need to implement them at scale,” said Ahmed.

“A business as usual approach will only continue fueling conflicts, as communities compete for scarce resources, and deprive future generations of vital natural resources,” Ahmed warned.

A tree nursery in the Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania (Photo by Arturo Gianvenuti) Published in the handbook "Managing forests in displacement settings."

A tree nursery in the Mtendeli refugee camp, Tanzania (Photo by Arturo Gianvenuti) Published in the handbook “Managing forests in displacement settings.”

Ahmed and Sanders explain that, “A planning approach to the use of forest resources is crucial for building resilience and enabling sustainable development in both displaced and host communities. In particular, well-planned forestry interventions can ensure a sustainable supply of woodfuel, timber and non-wood forest products for those communities, thereby helping to ensure their well-being.”

Forests and trees underpin core ecosystem services such as freshwater supply, soil stability and fertility, agro-biodiversity and biodiversity conservation, all of which contribute to the resilience of communities.

“Responsible environmental management is integral to today’s approaches to dealing with large-scale displacement and managing its consequences,” explained Andrea Dekrout, UNHCR senior environment coordinator, Division of Programme Support and Management.

In Uganda’s Bidibidi settlement, for example, one of the world’s largest refugee-hosting areas, UNHCR and FAO estimate that annual wood fuel consumption mounted to over 300,000 tonnes in 2017.

At this rate of consumption, if left unmanaged, the wood fuel supply in Bidibidi will only last up to three more years and will wipe out the forest.

As hundreds of people every day cross the border from South Sudan, the countryside around Bidibidi is gradually turning into a vast refugee camp.

To address challenges like this, on June 20 FAO and UNHCR released the handbook “Managing forests in displacement settings,” which could be useful to all actors involved in forest management and plantation projects working to meet the needs of displaced and host communities.

“The handbook gives practical guidance on how to accelerate and support forest recovery and regeneration, protect forests, and plant trees to rehabilitate degraded land and support energy needs. It includes a list of actions – from growing trees to identifying, preparing and caring for nursery sites,” said co-author Arturo Gianvenuti, FAO forestry and wood energy specialist.

The handbook takes the reader through the establishment of a tree plantation, including the identification of suitable sites; appropriate soil conservation practices and site preparation methods; species selection for planting; adequate sources of seeds and seedlings; suitable sites for nurseries; and other important aspects of plantation design, establishment and management.

When needs are urgent, with the sudden influx of large displaced populations, the handbook recommends planting fast-growing trees, preferably indigenous species, to generate an ongoing source of wood fuel, small construction items and fodder.

The handbook also recommends planting trees for energy, timber, food and fodder, to generate income opportunities for refugees and host populations, help build their resilience, and reduce the environmental impact of displacement settings.

The handbook stresses that forest management plans should indicate who owns the right to harvest and who will benefit from the harvest of wood and non-wood products.

The involvement of the local community is crucial as it helps build a sense of ownership, and ensure forest interventions are well managed.

At this year’s meeting of the high-level political forum on sustainable development set for July 9-18, there will be an in-depth review of Sustainable Development Goal 15, which includes sustainable forest management.

Featured Image: The ‎Popular Committee for Refugees – Maghazi Camp, and the BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights planted olive trees, placed Palestinian flags, and sang traditional and patriotic songs to mark Land Day March 30, 2014. (Photo by Joe Catron) Creative Commons license via Flickr


MaxNews

Making Zero Global Deforestation a Reality

Volunteer Rich Kuhlman participates in tree planting at a stream restored by South River Federation in Annapolis, Maryland. Oct. 28, 2017 (Photo by Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Volunteer Rich Kuhlman participates in tree planting at a stream restored by South River Federation in Annapolis, Maryland. Oct. 28, 2017 (Photo by Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Reporting on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources just got easier with a new online tool linked to Google Earth Engine launched this week by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The platform enables countries to boost the efficiency of their reporting and improve the consistency, reliability and transparency of forest data.

The platform developed by FAO with financial support from the European Union and the Government of Finland was presented Monday at a special high-level ceremony in Toluca, Mexico.

In September 2015, 193 world governments made an ambitious commitment. They unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their associated targets.

Target 15.2 of SDG 15, Life on Land, boldly calls for halting deforestation worldwide by 2020.

Two years later, governments approved another bold goal. The UN General Assembly adopted the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030, which calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by three percent worldwide by 2030.

We know some progress toward reforestation is taking place. For instance, this week, China ordered 60,000 soldiers to pick up shovels and begin planting trees around Beijing. But how will we know whether or not these sworn goals are being achieved?

The new FAO online platform will allow efficient monitoring of and reporting on forest cover and land-use change to help governments monitor their progress towards these targets and is crucial as countries adopt measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

“Assessing the state of the world’s global forest resources requires consistent and reliable data,” said FAO Senior Forestry Officer Anssi Pekkarinen. “The new platform allows countries to improve their capacity to compile up-to-date and precise forest data, reduces reporting burden, and allows to better measure progress towards the 2030 Agenda.”

The new tool offers improved data entry and data visualization, plus review and analysis functions. A more user-friendly interface allows adding data, copying and pasting from existing entry sheets and documenting national data sources.

To help countries where forest information is limited or not available, the platform allows access to related external information as well as geospatial data from global remote sensing products.

The platform will be used for the next 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) report. The most comprehensive analysis of the world’s forest resources, the FRA is produced every five years through an inclusive and country-driven process.

For the first time, the new FAO platform will provide all 171 FRA National Correspondents – officially nominated national forest authorities who are responsible for compiling the country reports, and their collaborators – free access to vast global data repositories and analytical tools with the computing power of Google Earth Engine.

“This announcement builds on our productive three-year partnership with FAO that we signed at COP 21 in Paris,” said Rebecca Moore, director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. “We are excited to enable all countries with equal access to the latest technology in support of global climate action and sustainable development.”

Moore says the new tool makes it easy even for people without prior remote-sensing experience to access satellite imagery and other geospatial data to monitor national forest cover and land-use changes over time.

While global rates of deforestation have been cut in half over the last two decades – from a net annual forest area loss of 7.3 million hectares in 2000 to 3.3 million hectares in 2015 – deforestation and forest degradation still continue at alarming rates.

An estimated 80 percent of forest loss is driven by conversion of forest to agricultural land.

To explore ways of halting deforestation and accelerating the planting of new trees and forests, an international conference was held in at FAO headquarters in Rome in late February, with more than 300 stakeholders from many walks of life.

Organized by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, participation at the conference, “From Aspiration to Action,” was by invitation only. Representatives of government ministries responsible for agriculture and livestock, environment, energy and extractive industries, the private sector and civil society organizations, especially of indigenous peoples, were invited.

“Over the past 25 years, the rate of net global deforestation slowed by more than 50 percent,” said Manoel Sobral Filho, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in his keynote address to the conference. “If the current trend of slowing forest loss, combined with forest restoration and plantation efforts continues, a future where we achieve zero net global deforestation can go from being an aspiration to reality.”

Participants stressed that land-use competition between forests and agriculture could be solved by introducing diversified agricultural production systems that integrate trees, crops and livestock with a landscape approach.

Examples include agroforestry systems in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops or silvo-pastoral systems, combining agriculture, forestry and grazing of domesticated animals.

The participants highlighted the need to underpin the stability of livelihoods and the role of forests as providers of ecosystem services by recognizing the many “hidden” values of forests, such as pollination, and by enhancing simple and direct systems of payments for ecosystem services.

In his address, Amedi Camara, minister of environment and sustainable development of Mauritania and president of the Council of Ministers of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, stressed the importance of the Great Green Wall initiative for combating desertification, sustainable management of natural resources and the fight against poverty and climate change.

Drought-resistant trees are being planted in a wall across the continent of Africa in an effort to halt the advancing Sahara Desert. (Map courtesy Great Green Wall Initiative) Posted for media use

Drought-resistant trees are being planted in a wall across the continent of Africa in an effort to halt the advancing Sahara Desert. (Map courtesy Great Green Wall Initiative) Posted for media use

The Great Green Wall is an African-led project that aims to grow a nearly 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile) natural wonder of the world by planting trees across the entire width of Africa to hold back the spreading Sahara Desert. Once completed, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on Earth.

In the final outcome document, participants stressed that the corporate responsibility of agri-business plays a vital role in halting deforestation, which should be supported by international trade instruments favoring deforestation-free commodities.

Small producers would also need better access to services, finance and markets.

Conference participants noted that scaling-up finance and investment for sustainable land use and forests requires positive incentives, improved governance, public-private partnerships and innovative financing instruments.

The indispensable role of youth as agents of change was highlighted, and participants underlined the need to strengthen education at all levels as an essential component of building capacity to halt deforestation and increase forest area.

The outcomes of the conference will be channeled to the UN Forum on Forests taking place in May, and through it, to the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that will review progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land in July.

Featured image: Cathedral Grove of old growth forest in British Columbia, Canada, August 2011 (Photo by Sang Trinh)


GrantProposalTraining

Hammering Out a Global Platform for Forests

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A new action platform to build momentum for implementing the New York Declaration on Forests debuted earlier this month at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) introduced a Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests – an innovative partnership of multinational companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledging to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030.

“Improved agricultural practices is a key solution to deforestation, and is therefore a critical issue for companies like ours,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at the Kellogg Company, an American multinational food manufacturer.

“To achieve our shared ambition to slow and halt the loss of our forests, we need to accelerate our work to build partnerships, strengthening policies, and create incentives to drive outcomes,” said Holdorf. “The NYDF Platform will help us get there.”

The New York Declaration on Forests was first endorsed at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014, and by October 2017 the number of supporters grew to include over 191 entities: 40 governments, 20 sub-national governments, 57 multi-national companies, 16 groups representing indigenous communities, and 58 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The declaration points to ambitious targets: to end natural forest loss by 2030, with a 50 percent reduction by 2020 as a milestone toward its achievement.

In addition, the declaration calls for restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, supporting the private sector in eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of major agricultural commodities by 2020, and providing financial support to reduce emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation.

The Global Platform aims to accelerate achievement of the 10 ambitious goals expressed in the New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary, non-binding commitment to forest protection and restoration.

Goal 1: At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strive to end natural forest loss by 2030.

However, to date, there are no signs that tropical deforestation is slowing. In 2016, tropical deforestation was a larger source of emissions than the European Union’s entire economic activity.

In fact, 2016 saw the highest loss of tree cover globally in more than 15 years, driven in part by a strong El Niño event in 2015 that led to unprecedented droughts and wildfires, as well as by the continued expansion of agricultural production for commodities like palm oil in Southeast Asia and soy in Latin America.

For instance, Brazil achieved steep reductions in deforestation for over a decade, but official government data indicate that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 29 percent higher in 2016 than in the previous year.

Goal 2: Support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.

In response to the need for clear and consistent guidance on definitions, implementation, monitoring, verification, and reporting on supply-chain commitments, a coalition of environmental and social NGOs is developing the Accountability Framework in close consultation with companies, governments, and other stakeholders.

Designed for companies, financial institutions, government agencies, reporting and tracking initiatives, implementation service providers, advocacy organizations, producers, and communities affected by commodity production. The Accountability Framework is being developed in late 2017 and 2018, beginning with the global framework to be followed by more detailed good practices and guidance in an accompanying manual.

Goal 3: Significantly reduce deforestation derived from other economic sectors by 2020.

A new wave of infrastructure development – mines, oil and gas production facilities, hydroelectric plants, and road networks – is creating new deforestation hotspots, such as one in the Western Amazon. While such development is not new to the region, there is a growing number of projects that mobilize large amounts of funding and access previously undisturbed forests.

At the same time, new sustainability standards are being developed. The World Bank has created a new Environmental and Social Framework applicable to all economic sectors, including mining and infrastructure, that is intended to increase the coverage and harmonization of policies and improve monitoring and accountability efforts.

Set to be applied from 2018, the Environmental and Social Framework includes prevention of critical habitat conversion and sustainable forest management.

Goal 4: Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs, such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy, in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.

This goal seeks to address forest loss by supporting economically sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests.

Farming to meet basic needs is estimated to contribute nearly a third of total deforestation in the tropics. In many developing countries the level of fuelwood collected for basic needs such as cooking and heating exceeds regrowth by trees and contributes roughly one-third of forest degradation.

The problem of fuelwood collection is particularly acute in East Africa and South Asia, with hotspots in Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Malaysia.

The forest impact of fuelwood collection can be reduced by shifting from open fires to more efficient cookstoves or solar cookers and heaters.

Goal 5: Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increase the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

To date, 45 private and public entities have pledged to restore over 156 million hectares of forest under the Bonn Challenge.

Twenty-six parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate containing quantified forest and land sector restoration targets totalling 42.5 million hectares. Additional mitigation and adaptation measures listed in the NDCs add another 39.5 million hectares of planned forest restoration.

Three of world’s largest conservation organizations – BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF – have just launched an unprecedented 25-year tree planting and restoration effort they are calling the Trillion Trees program.

The planet is losing 10 billion trees every year, the groups warn, leading to widespread impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, local economies and human health.

The partner groups say one trillion is the number of new trees needed to reverse the global decline in tree cover.

Goal 6: Include ambitious, quantitative forest conservation and restoration targets for 2030 in the post-2015 global development framework, as part of new international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals agreed to by the member states of the United Nations, and adopted in September 2015.

The conservation target adopted in SDG 15.2, specifically the aim to “halt deforestation,” is both quantifiable and highly ambitious.

Goal 7: Agree in 2015 to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement, in accordance with internationally agreed rules and consistent with the goal of not exceeding 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

Written before the Paris Agreement on climate was adopted in December 2015, this goal aimed to get forest-related mitigation measures included in the that agreement. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, includes a full article, Article 5, dedicated to land use and forests, cementing the role of forests and other carbon sinks in achieving its overall mitigation goal.

Goal 8: Provide support for the development and implementation of strategies to reduce forest emissions.

International forest finance remains in short supply and has not grown substantially in recent years, according to OECD data.

Many middle-income countries invest substantial amounts of domestic finance into forest protection, in many cases exceeding what they receive from international public sources.

“There is a substantial amount of grey finance in the private sector that has the potential to be greened,” says the New York Declaration on Forests’ most recent progress report Forest Declaration.

Goal 9: Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions, particularly through public policies to scale-up payments for verified emission reductions and private-sector sourcing of commodities.

Results-based REDD+ payments, the financial incentives for reducing forestry emissions, are only beginning to reward countries and jurisdictions that reduce forest emissions, as called for by Goal 9.

Roughly US$4.1 billion has been committed in the form of results-based REDD+ payments, and about one-third of this amount has been disbursed, mostly to Brazil.

REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

REDD+ aims to mitigate climate change through reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries. Researchers estimate that land use change, including deforestation and forest degradation, accounts for between 12 and 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Goal 10: Strengthen forest governance, transparency, and the rule of law, while also empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those pertaining to their lands and resources.

New data from Global Witness shows a record number of killings of people who tried to defend their land or the environment against industries in 2016 – 182 people died. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been taking steps to highlight the issue, and is expected to release a special report next year.

The Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests provides a central coordination mechanism to increase political ambition, accelerate action, forge new partnerships, and monitor progress towards replaining and restoring the world’s degraded forests.

The NYDF Global Platform will be convened by UNDP, which will serve as its secretariat, in partnership with Meridian Institute and Climate Advisers.

The NYDF Platform will also collaborate closely with the NYDF Assessment Partners, a network of civil society groups and research institutions that annually publishes the NYDF Progress Assessment, an independent evaluation of progress toward meeting the NYDF goals.

“Without a doubt, protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s tropical forests is one of the most important climate solutions available to us today. We cannot achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees [above pre-industrial levels] without focused collaborative efforts on forests,” said State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

“Germany intends to support the launch of the NYDF Platform as a signal of real intention by NYDF endorsers to accelerate action to protect and restore the world’s forests,” Flasbarth said.

Achieving the NYDF goals could reduce the global emissions of greenhouse gases by 4.5 to 8.8 billion metric tons every year – equivalent to the United States’ annual emissions or equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by one billion cars.

“Meeting the world’s climate and forest goals will only be possible through the collaborative action of all forest stakeholders—countries, companies, indigenous peoples, and civil society included,” said Jamison Ervin of UNDP.

“The New York Declaration on Forests is a prime example of this much-needed collaboration in action, and UNDP is proud to host the Global Platform for the NYDF to accelerate partnership and action to end deforestation.”

César Rey, director of Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, remarked, “The challenges we face in addressing deforestation are daunting, yet with strong and committed partnership among governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community, I am confident we can achieve the ground-breaking vision of the NYDF.”

“By facilitating synergies among the range of activities and stakeholders involved in protecting forests, transforming supply chains and improving forest livelihoods and governance,” said Rey, “the NYDF Platform can only help advance our collective efforts.”

“For indigenous peoples, forests are the center of our cultural and spiritual lives,” said Mina Setra, deputy secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago.

“Because of our commitment to protect our forests, indigenous peoples face ongoing threats to our lives, our rights and our livelihoods,” she said. “We look forward to working with the NYDF Platform to strengthen forest governance, transparency, and rule of law, and to advance recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples.”


Featured Image : An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. February 24, 2013 (Photo by Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Beetle Bitten Forests: Log or Leave Alone?

BeetleKillsColorado

Dead standing trees dot the hills of Grand County, Colorado, 2008 (Photo by Vicky Hamilton)

By Sunny Lewis

DENVER, Colorado, April 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – As another wildfire season unfolds across the Northern Hemisphere, billions of beetles of many species are burrowing into trees, laying their eggs, killing forests and leaving dead stands vulnerable to fire. And again the debate arises – should they be left alone or managed?

Japan’s world-famous cherry blossoms, which attract millions of tourists every spring, are under attack from a foreign species of beetle that experts fear could kill cherry trees across the nation.

The culprits, red-necked longhorn beetles, Aromia bungii, were imported into Japan in shipments of lumber from China, Vietnam and other parts of southeast Asia, the “Yomiuri Shimbun” newspaper reported in February.

“They have tremendously high fertility,” said scientist Etsuko Kagaya, chief of the planning division in the forest entomology department at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute based in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture. “Unless something is done to prevent their fertility now, there will be irrevocable consequences.”

As a first step, the Environment Ministry of Japan has decided to have the red-necked longhorn beetle designated as an invasive alien species and ban its import or domestic breeding. But hundreds of Japan’s precious cherry trees are already lost.

The European spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus, found from Europe to Asia Minor and some parts of Africa, has destroyed vast areas of Germany’s Bavarian Forest Biosphere Reserve. This destruction in the early aughts, and officials’ decision not to intervene in the natural forest processes, generated local and international alarm.

By 2004, the bark beetles had destroyed close to 4,000 hectares, or nearly one-sixth of the Bavarian Forest Biosphere Reserve. But then the beetle attacks began to recede and destruction slowed.

The biosphere reserve is part of the Bohemian Forest situated on a long mountain ridge running along the Czech-Bavarian and Czech-Austrian borders in central Europe. This densely wooded landscape with mountain streams, marshlands, mires and bog woodlands is a refuge for many endangered species of plants and animals.

Nature is protected here in two national parks: the Bayerischer Wald National Park in Germany; established in 1970 and enlarged in 1997 to 24,250 ha and the Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic; established in 1991; 68,064 ha. There have been proposals to establish a national park in the Austrian part of the Bohemian Forest but so far they have not been accepted.

Less than six millimeters long, the spruce bark beetle only attacks spruce trees, burrowing through the bark and feeding on the next layer of tissues that transport nutrients and water. There the beetle digs tunnels to lay its eggs.

Just 50 beetles are enough to kill a fully-grown tree in eight weeks. The larvae laid in the tunnels hatch to produce tens of thousands of new beetles to attack neighboring trees.

The only effective way to stop destruction is to fell the tree and remove it from the park. But Bavarian park officials followed a policy of allowing nature to take its course, only felling beetle-damaged trees in the buffer zone between wilderness areas and commercial forests, and to keep the beetles from spreading across the border to the Sumova National Park.

But in 2011 the bark beetles did spread to Sumava. There the same controversy erupted, but this time environmentalists said leave natural processes to take their course, while Sumava Park officials wanted to fell damaged and dead trees.

The majority of Czechs sided with park and government officials, who see the action as a necessary to prevent a wider infestation, a poll by the Center for Analysis and Empirical Studies shows. Some 4,000 trees were marked for cutting.

Bark beetles can spread quickly over large areas. Some scientists say beetles originating on the Iberian Peninsula may have invaded the spruce forests of northern Norway.

In the Norwegian spruce forests beetles are transmitting fungal pathogens such as blue stain fungus, which kills healthy trees by blocking the upward flow of water. It stains the wood with blue streaks, destroying its commercial value, causing trouble for the lumber industry.

North America is also plagued by invasive beetles, both native and from other parts of the world.

In California, a pine tree planted in 2004 in honor of Beatles member George Harrison has died after being attacked by pine bark beetles.

During the five-year drought that parched California until heavy rains this year, pine bark beetles turned the state’s forests into a highly flammable expanse of dead wood.

The most recent data from 2015 estimates bark beetles have killed over 29 million trees, and Cal Fire Education Officer Amy Head said that number is now higher, increasing the fire risk even more.

“Bark beetles are always there,” Head told “SF Gate” last May. “They’re part of the environment in California, but because of the consecutive years of drought, the infestation has reached epidemic levels. We’re going into a fifth year of drought and we didn’t quite get enough rain fall this winter. The bark beetles are multiplying. They’re thriving on these stressed and dying trees.”

In June 2016, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 66 million trees had died since 2010 in California’s prolonged drought.

And beetles are killing vast swaths of forests from Canada to Mexico. They can be found at elevations from sea level to 11,000 feet.

In Colorado, on both the Front Range and Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains, the mountain pine beetle epidemic lingers, warns the U.S. Forest Service.

The spruce beetle infestations exist in the southern forests of the region including the Rio Grande, San Jaun, Grand Mesa, Umcompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests.

Currently, land management agencies are removing hazard trees and fuels to protect forest visitors and surrounding communities from forest fires. The Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests use both tree removal and spraying to respond to the issue in high value recreation areas such as campgrounds and trailheads and along roads and powerlines.

The core area of the epidemic remains in the Arapaho & Roosevelt, White River, and Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and adjacent forest lands. Bark beetles affect all of the eight national forests in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Damaged power lines could cause wildfires and/or blackouts because electricity generated in western Colorado must be transmitted across beetle-killed areas to serve Front Range demands. The Forest Service also warns that essential water supplies are at risk because the heart of the epidemic in Colorado and Wyoming contains the headwaters for rivers that supply water to 13 western states.

But as in Europe, not everyone agrees that beetle damaged trees should be managed. Some even contest that they are susceptible to fire.

Scientist Sarah Hart and her colleagues from the University of Colorado who studied the states of the Mountain West said that contrary to the expectation that a mountain pine beetle outbreak increases fire risk, spatial analysis showed no effect of outbreaks on area burned during years of extreme burning across the West.

They concluded, “These results refute the assumption that increased bark beetle activity has increased area burned; therefore, policy discussions should focus on societal adaptation to the effects of the underlying drivers: warmer temperatures and increased drought.”

Scientists under the leadership of Garrett Meigs from College of Forestry at Oregon State University found this year that insects generally reduce the severity of subsequent wildfires because insects decrease the abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time lags.

“In such situation, native insects buffer rather than exacerbate fire regime changes expected due to land use and climate change,” they concluded.

Douglas Bevington, forest program director for Environment Now and the author of the 2009 book “The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear,” is of the school of thought that would leave natural processes, including beetle infestations, to take their course.

“Rather than allowing logging proponents to exploit fear and misinformation about fire, we have a collective opportunity to learn from the current pulse of tree mortality and develop a greater understanding of the full diversity of California’s forests,” he wrote in “EcoWatch” last August.

“Dead trees, including large patches of snags, are a vital part of the forest. We should appreciate them, along with the natural processes that create them, such as beetles and wildfires,” wrote Bevington. “While forest protection efforts have historically focused on green trees, forests come in a variety of colors that also deserve protection, including trees with brown needles and trees with blackened bark. Their diversity provides the basis for a diversity of forest life.”


Featured Image: European spruce bark beetles are destroying spruce trees across the continent. (Photo by Tõnu Pani via Wikipedia)

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Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

ForestIndonesia

The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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Carbon Budgets Ignore Trees on Farms

Agroforestry Iowa

Trees and grass established as part of a riparian buffer on the Ron Risdal farm in Story County, Iowa. The Iowa State University AgroEcology team has helped landowners along this stream, Bear Creek, establish miles of buffers and earn the stream recognition as a U.S. national demonstration site, June 6, 2016 (Photo by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, August 30, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, 1.2 billion people depend on agroforestry farming systems, especially in developing countries, the World Bank calculates. Yet, trees on farms are not even considered in the greenhouse gas accounting framework of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Agroforestry systems and tree cover on agricultural lands make an important contribution to climate change mitigation, but are not systematically accounted for either in global carbon budgets or in national carbon accounting, concludes new research conducted by a team of researchers in Africa, Asia and Europe.

The scientists assessed the role of trees on agricultural land and the amount of carbon they have sequestered from the atmosphere over the past decade.

Their study, titled “Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land: The contribution of agroforestry to global and national carbon budgets,” looks at biomass carbon on agricultural lands both globally and by country, and what determines its distribution across different climate zones.

Robert Zomer of the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi, lead author of the study, said, “Remote sensing data show that in 2010, 43 percent of all agricultural land globally had at least 10 percent tree cover, up from eight percent in the preceding decade.

 “Given the vast amount of land under agriculture,” Zomer said, “agroforestry may already significantly contribute to global carbon budgets.

Large forest areas in the tropics are still being cleared for agricultural production to feed the world’s swelling population, now approaching 7.5 billion.

The researchers found that while tropical forests continued to decline, tree cover on agricultural land has increased across the globe, absorbing nearly 0.75 gigatonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) every year.

Study results show that existing tree cover makes a major contribution to carbon pools on agricultural land, demonstrating the potential to add to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts,” said Jianchu Xu of the World Agroforestry Centre.

If tree cover is accounted for, the total carbon stock is over four times higher than when estimated using IPCC Tier 1 estimates alone,” said Xu.

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Acacia tree seedlings in Ma Village, Vietnam, May 30, 2016 (Photo by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture) Creative Commons license via Flickr

In the IPCC system, a tier represents a level of complexity used for categorizing emissions factors and activity data. Tier 1 is the basic method; it utilizes IPCC-recommended country-level defaults. Tiers 2 and 3 are each more demanding in terms of complexity and data requirements.

Given the vast stretches of agricultural land where the potential for tree cover is not yet realized, the study suggests that a huge greenhouse gas mitigation potential exists and should be explored more systematically.

For this study, researchers mapped and tabulated regional and country-level variation in biomass carbon stocks and trends globally, and for each country.

Brazil, Indonesia, China and India had the largest increases in biomass carbon stored on agricultural land, while Argentina, Myanmar, and Sierra Leone had the largest decreases.

The results of our spatial analysis show that trees on agricultural land sequestered close to 0.75 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide globally per year over the past decade,” said Henry Neufeldt, head of climate change research at the World Agroforestry Centre.

If we can harness good policies to enhance positive examples and stop negative trends, trees in agricultural landscapes can play a major role in greenhouse gas mitigation,” Neufeldt advised. “But no one should say that this is already solving the problem for agricultural emissions as long as we do not know what is actually happening on the ground.

 The Global Tree Cover and Biomass Carbon on Agricultural Land analysis is part of on-going research at the Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, an applied research laboratory jointly managed by the Kunming Institute of Botany, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the World Agroforestry Centre. Their research is focused on mountain ecosystems, biodiversity, traditional communities, and development pressures affecting natural and cultural resources.

Identifying which climate-smart agriculture practices should be supported for upscaling is an investment question, says Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, regional program leader for the CGIAR  Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in Southeast Asia.

Answering this question can be most successful when it is the outcome of a participatory planning process during which local farmers share their knowledge in the development of a village-level land-use planning map to help improve community farming decisions.

As one of the most vulnerable regions in the world, Southeast Asia is on the front lines of the battle against climate change. Hundreds of millions of people are at risk as increasing temperatures, flooding, and rising sea levels threaten livelihoods, incomes and food security.

Ma Village, population 729, lies in Vietnam’s Yen Bai province. It is one of CCAFS’ six Climate-Smart Villages in Southeast Asia. These communities are prone to climate change impacts, so CCAFS has been introducing climate-smart agriculture practices to enhance food security and capacity to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Despite its great agricultural potential, the sustainability and profitability of agricultural production in Ma Village remain inadequate as the climate-risk area suffers from the depletion of natural resources, land degradation, and water pollution.

During spring, water shortages due to deforestation compromise the supply of irrigation water, which affects agricultural production, with the rice paddies most at risk.

A community land-use planning activity this year concluded with the farmers’ decision to replace the cultivation of rice crops with drought-tolerant cash crops during the spring season and support reforestation in the upland area of the village.

In residential areas, farmers agreed to replace mixed gardens with fruit trees such as pomelo, lemon and banana.

Village leader Le Van Tam said, “Recovering natural forest and growing more trees within resident land is an option to solve water shortage, soil erosion, and many other unfavored weather events.

Community-based forestry may hold great promise for sustainable development, but it has not yet reached its full potential, according to a February report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, “Forty years of community-based forestry: A review of its extent and effectiveness.

 While almost one-third of the world’s forested areas are under some form of community management, the approach has not reached its full potential.

 The FAO report recommends that governments provide communities with secure forest tenure, improve regulatory frameworks, and transfer to them appropriate and viable skills and technologies.

Indigenous peoples, local communities and family smallholders stand ready to maintain and restore forests, respond to climate change, conserve biodiversity and sustain livelihoods on a vast scale,” said Eva Müller, director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division.

What is missing in most cases is the political will to make it happen,” said Müller. “Political leaders and policy makers should open the door to unleash the potential of hundreds of millions of people to manage the forests on which the whole world depends for a better and sustainable future.”


 Featured Images: Trees on a tea farm in China, April 2012 (Photo by vhines200) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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The Power of Reforestation in China

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Before the Chairman Mao regime came into power, China was a heavily forested country. In fact, the Forbidden City was made entirely out of wood. When Mao took over, he wanted to make China a steel country, during the Great Leap Forward (1958–62). He forced every farmer to use backyard steel furnaces for steelmaking, which required vast amounts of wood to maintain the intense level of heat required for their furnaces. A massive deforestation effort took place to support Mao’s wishes. As a result, China tore down millions of acres of forests, which has had an enormous impact on the environment.

Take air pollution in Beijing, for example. According to data gathered by the US Embassy in the nation’s capital, Beijing experienced 200 days in 2014 in which the air pollution was considered “unhealthy”. Only 10 days of that year were deemed “good”.

People are starting to stand up and take notice. Today, China has the world’s largest reforestation program. During a recent visit, I drove four hours straight along one of its reforestation programs. Because of my work as an architect and my consequential plane travel, I wanted to personally offset my carbon footprint by planting trees there. That’s why I started a reforestation initiative in China in 2014, which has since planted over 6,000 trees. Within 17 years, the forest will grow so thick as to bring down the area’s temperature by 2.5 degrees Celsius. The cooling effect will lead to more rain, which will lead to more trees and so the cycle continues.

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Wolfgang Frey at Chinese reforestation program site.

The purpose for our reforestation project is to try to minimize our CO2 emissions by offsetting our carbon footprint. In general, we build passive houses, which are a low carbon alternative to traditional construction that requires very little heating or cooling. At the same time, even passive houses emit some level of CO2. However, not building is not an alternative.

One alternative is, however, to build with wood. Our Woodhouse project, which was showcased at the Expo in Shanghai 2010, was built with the amount of wood it would have taken to heat the building for 20 years. We had a double CO2 savings effect: first, it is a house built according to the passive house standard and does not use much oil or wood to heat (CO2 savings #1). Second, we substituted materials with a large carbon footprint such as concrete or materials that need to be burned by wood (CO2 savings #2).

Wood pellets as a heat source are more than troublesome because the emission stemming from burning wood in private ovens is a) not regulated and b) is catastrophic for the environment.

I grew up in the Black Forest in Germany. My father would chop down a tree and leave the roots, crown and branches to regenerate the soil through composting. Today, the entire tree is taken, which is an environmental disaster. This low-grade wood is especially used for pellets. 50% of minerals are in the roots and crown of the tree. Removing them from the forest floor leaves the soil barren. Deforestation and desertification are inevitable outcomes.

The good news is we architects have developed a few solutions to the world’s environmental problems. Through smart buildings, smog prevention and reforestation, we can make a difference. In my view, everyone should live more sustainably, whether they are architects or not.

While there are many ways to build in a sustainable and mindful fashion, our environment is always impacted in some way by construction. The goal is to minimize our negative impact by offsetting our carbon footprint, becoming more aware of the ultimate outcome of our building decisions. Plastic window casings, for instance, have a much higher recyclability than wooden framed windows. At first glance, wood may seem like the more ecological choice. Over the long term, it is not.

There are two major challenges to creating environmentally sustainable buildings: technology and psychology. How do we technologically solve our challenge to build sustainably? We have many ways to do that, starting with passive houses. Second, how do we improve people’s mindsets so they live more sustainably? That is the larger challenge, I think. Nonetheless, both issues have to be kept in mind in order to create environmentally sustainable buildings.

Sustainability needs to be trendy so people will catch on. The trend then needs to move toward durability, much like seat belt laws. What was once optional is now mandatory and most people abide by it without even thinking. A sustainable lifestyle should be as automatic. That is at least the goal.


portrait-wolfgang-freyWolfgang Frey, a dynamic, sought-after public speaker and architectural visionary, has headed Frey Architekten since 1991. Founded in 1959 by Friedrich Frey, the architectural office is located in the German eco-city of Freiburg im Breisgau. As one of the pioneers in sustainable architecture, Frey Architekten has been using solar panels since 1972. In addition, the office has an international presence in China, Russia and other parts of Europe. www.freyarchitekten.com

Indonesia, EU License Legal Timber Trade

IndonesiaLogs

By Sunny Lewis                                                                      Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 10, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Indonesian President Joko Widodo, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and European Council President Donald Tusk will promote trade in legally produced timber between the European Union and Indonesia through the start of the first Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) licensing plan.

The market effects of the plan are being monitored by the FLEGT Independent Market Monitoring mechanism, a multi-year project supervised by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) and financed by the EU.

The April 21st announcement, on the occasion of President Widodo’s visit to Brussels, follows a joint assessment of Indonesia’s forest management.

Investigators found that illegal logging, which destroyed so much of Indonesia’s rainforest, has decreased since 2000, and Indonesia is fully ready to implement the Indonesia–EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement.

The EU can now complete the moves that will make Indonesia’s FLEGT licensing fully operational.

When these procedures are complete, the Indonesia–EU Joint Implementation Committee will recommend a date for FLEGT licensing to start, expected later in 2016, making Indonesia the first country to deliver licensed timber.

In a joint statement, presidents Widodo, Juncker and Tusk said, “Indonesia and the EU are close partners in addressing environmental challenges. We are committed to the sustainable management of forests and to fighting illegal logging and related illegal trade.”

“The EU welcomes the implementation for all types of wood products of the Indonesian Timber Legality Assurance System. We welcome the full implementation of the Indonesia-EU Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade and agree to move expeditiously towards the start of the FLEGT licensing scheme. We look forward to the first shipment of FLEGT-certified timber from Indonesia in the coming months.”

“The EU is committed to ensuring the uniform and effective implementation of the European Union Timber Regulation,” the three presidents said.

FLEGT-licensed products automatically meet the requirements of the EU Timber Regulation, which prohibits EU operators from placing illegally harvested timber and timber products on the EU market.

With mandatory checks of the timber legality assurance system that meet international market requirements in place, the government of Indonesia expects timber product exports to increase, delivering more rural jobs, income and growth.

Indonesia’s rainforests are the third largest in the world, but they are also among the most endangered. Much of the country’s forests have disappeared into the country’s enormous timber processing mills.

A 2007 UN Environmental Program report estimated that 73 to 88 percent of timber logged in Indonesia was illegally sourced. More recent estimates place the figure at 40 to 55 percent.

Even forests in national parks are at risk. A 2010 report by five U.S. environmental groups quotes the Indonesian government as admitting that timber is illegally harvested from 37 of the nation’s 41 national parks

With EU support and in coordination with the Indonesian FLEGT Licensing authorities, the FLEGT Independent Market Monitoring mechanism is responsible for regularly assessing the impact of licensing on trade from Indonesia and the other 14 tropical countries engaged in the FLEGT VPA process.

Benefitting from support from the European Commission and EU Member States, the FLEGT VPA in Indonesia has strengthened forest governance by increasing transparency, accountability and stakeholder participation in decisions about forests.

Indonesia has boosted legal trade, modernized and formalized its forest sector, and improved business practices, enabling many thousands of businesses to meet market demand for legal timber.

With EU support, Indonesia has trained nearly 15,000 local government supervisors, sustainable forest management technicians, staff at regional forest management offices, and village heads.

Suar wood coffee tables at IndoGemstone Bali, Indonesia's rustic home decor and natural style furniture manufacturing company. (Photo by IndoGemstone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Suar wood coffee tables at IndoGemstone Bali, Indonesia’s rustic home decor and natural style furniture manufacturing company. (Photo by IndoGemstone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Indonesia has used its timber legality assurance system to audit the legality of more than 20 million hectares of forests and more than 1,700 forest industries, an unprecedented level of scrutiny.

Now over 90 percent of Indonesian timber exports come from independently audited factories and forests, and the remainder will be audited in the coming months.

To ensure that small businesses such as furniture-makers are not left out, Indonesia allocated seven billion rupiah in 2015 to help more than 1,200 small and medium-sized enterprises become certified legal under the timber legality assurance system.

To date, 93 percent of Indonesia’s small and medium-sized furniture exporters have been certified legal, enabling them to export their products to an increasingly educated international market.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest producers of tropical timber, accounting for around 17 percent of the global value of tropical timber trade in 2013, according to the IMM Baseline Report. The country exports sawnwood, plywood, pulp and paper, furniture and handicrafts.

The majority of Indonesian forest product exports are to China, Japan, South Korea and the EU. In 2014, the EU accounted for 8.9 percent of the value of all timber product exports from Indonesia, up from 8.4 percent in 2013.

EU imports of wood and wood furniture from Indonesia in 2015 had a value of €803 million, 17 percent higher than in 2014. In 2015, Indonesia was the second-largest tropical supplier of wood and wood furniture products to the EU, just behind Vietnam, and it accounted for 21 percent of all EU imports from tropical countries.


License Legal Timber Trade images:

Main image: A barge transporting logs in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. (Photo by Achmad Ibrahim for Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Featured image: These illegal logs were seized, while in transit, and are impounded at district police offices, Riau, Sumatra, Indonesia, 2010. (Photo by Sofi Mardiah for Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 

 

Paris Climate Pact Supports REDD+ Forest Credits

ColombiaForestCIATBy Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – When forests are cleared, climate warming is accelerated as the trees that were cut can no longer store carbon dioxide (CO2). Support for financial incentives that encourage the conservation of forested lands, known as REDD+, is included in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an international effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests through a market in carbon credits.

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, see the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway

The UN-backed program encourages results-based payments for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ was developed by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and wisely use their forest resources, conserving biodiversity and assisting the global fight against climate change.

In addition to the environmental benefits, REDD+ offers social and economic benefits and is being integrated into green economy strategies. REDD+ projects have been opened in at least 47 developing countries.

The role of REDD+ in reducing climate change is recognized in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December. The agreement will be opened for signature at UN Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The pact will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

Article 5.2 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to REDD+, capping a decade of negotiations. It cements REDD+ as a core element of the global climate regime.

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+, agreed in March 2014, outlines key UNFCCC requirements that must be met by developing countries in order to realize results-based payments for REDD+ actions.

“REDD+ can be put in place as an incentive system through which sustainable development can take place without having to cut down the forests,” said Mario Boccucci, who heads the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat.

In an interview with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, he gave examples that include: increasing agricultural productivity; shifting toward agroforestry practices; and finding, financing, investing in and rewarding land-use management practices that do not reduce the forest cover.

Boccucci called the Paris Agreement “a turning point for humanity and for climate change” because “it sends a very strong and powerful signal that a global transformation towards a low-emission economy is not only needed, but it’s possible and it’s underway.”

The agreement brings together in a very powerful way the climate change agenda with the sustainable development agenda, said Boccucci. “It says: You have to do these two things together to reach the level of emissions reductions needed to meet the climate change mitigation target of keeping this planet at a less-than-2°C temperature increase, or as close as possible to 1.5°C.”

The inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement, “really signals that there is both political and financial confidence in REDD+ as a climate change mitigation solution that can work at scale in the near future,” Boccucci declared.

“This signal will energize, catalyze and scale up actions that so far we have seen delivered on a more opportunistic or smaller scale, as the level of investment that will be required will start to flow,” he said.

“Countries are now able to implement forest management policy changes with the confidence that they will be rewarded through a climate change regime that recognizes the value of emissions reduction produced through the forest system.”

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, consult the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway .

At an official COP21 side event on December 8 in Paris, Helen Clark, UNDP administrator and UN Development Group chair said, “The UN-REDD Programme can make a strong contribution to strengthening delivery of REDD+ support post-2015.”

“The new UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020  will be important in this regard,” said Clark. “It prioritizes national-level actions, helping governments to craft and implement policies and measures for REDD+, supported by multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships to address key drivers of deforestation.”

One example is a REDD+ project that has been operating since 2014.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project is reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation on 38,781 hectares of privately-owned land in Zambia’s Rufunsa District.

Known as the Rufunsa Conservancy, this is one of the last intact areas of forest within Lusaka Province. It provides a 60-kilometer buffer to Lower Zambezi National Park, a strategic protected area in Zambia in a globally significant trans-frontier conservation area.

Lower Zambezi National Park is adjacent to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 8,300 people live in 28 villages in the project area. The project proponent is BioCarbon Partners.

Carbon credits are authenticated by the Verified Carbon Standard Project Database, a global benchmark for carbon.

Every Verified Carbon Unit in the program can be tracked from issuance to retirement in the database, allowing buyers to ensure every credit is real, additional, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered and fully traceable online.

NoREDDProtestBut critics say financing reduction of deforestation through the trade of carbon credits is unworkable.

While the Paris agreement permits such trading in principle, it requires that the sale of carbon credits needthe consent of the country in which a project is located, dampening the enthusiasm of the private sector for this international trade mechanism, writes Jutta Kill in “German Climate Finance” of February 23.

“Even after almost ten years of ‘REDD+ Readiness,’ there is no evidence that REDD+ is an effective instrument against large-scale forest destruction,” writes Kill.

Problems in the implementation of REDD+ are increasingly apparent, according to the case book “REDD+ on the Ground” by the Center for International Forestry Research, which states, “Following the Bali COP in 2007, international funding for REDD+ quickly ramped up, with large pledges from governments and the development of voluntary markets. Since 2010, however, the flow of funds has been smaller…”

Also critical is the World Rainforest Movement, an international NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ Groups network. In 2014, this group published “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies,” an account of 24 controversial REDD+ initiatives.

“As offset projects, they all fail to address the climate crisis because by definition, offset projects do not reduce overall emissions: emission reductions claimed in one place justify extra emissions elsewhere,” claims the World Rainforest Movement.

Winnie Overbeek, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, said in an August 2015 interview  “REDD is not only a false solution to climate change, REDD also represents a severe threat for communities that depend on forests. This is what we have learned from communities affected by REDD+ projects that we could visit and/or whom we have talked with over the years.”

Even so, UN officials still see the REDD+ mechanism as a sharp tool in the fight against climate change.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said, “REDD+ and the significant investments we are seeing can act as a catalyst for a green economy transformation. This is more true as we increasingly engage the private sector in our efforts. Like a rising tide that lifts all ships, investments into REDD+ readiness and implementation can also trigger broader policy changes.”

Boccucci said, “The Paris Agreement demonstrates an unprecedented level of ambition and commitment by global leaders to address climate change issues. The UN-REDD Programme stands ready and prepared in this post-Paris ‘era of implementation’ to continue to support developing countries to realize their reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation goals and harness the long-term social, environmental and economic benefits of REDD+.”


Featured image: An elephant in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia, a REDD+ project, October 2014 (Photo by Naiyaru) Creative Commons license via Flickr
Header image: Measuring carbon in Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia, as part of a workshop on REDD+ hosted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), May 2011. (Photo by Neil Palmer / CIAT)
image 01: Friends of the Earth International, Alliance against REDD, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, No REDD+ in Africa Network and Global protest in solidarity with the communities threatened by REDD+, December 8, 2015 at the COP21 climate conference, Le Bourget, Paris, France. (Photo by Friends of the Earth International) Creative Commons license via Flickr

World Forestry Congress: Forests Are ‘More Than Trees’

by Sunny Lewis

DURBAN, South Africa, September 16, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Investing in forestry means investing not only in trees but in people and in sustainable development, delegates to the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban affirmed last week.

Held with the theme “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future,” the week-long meeting from September 7-11 took place under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The first World Forestry Congress was held in Rome in 1926; meetings have taken place roughly every six years since.

This was the first World Forestry Congress organized in Africa. Nearly 4,000 delegates from 142 countries represented governments and public agencies, international organizations, the private sector, academic and research institutions and nongovernmental, community and indigenous groups.

Congress Secretary-General Trevor Abrahams told delegates of the importance of restoring hope, dignity and social capital for sustainable forest management, particularly amongst youth.

Prince Laurent of Belgium called for an eco-contribution from cancelled debts to be allocated to a fund to safeguard the environment.

Sessions focused on people-centered forestry, socioeconomic issues, and the role of forests, trees and forestry in national economic development.

In their outcome document, the Durban Declaration, delegates offered a vision of forests that play “a decisive role” in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change.

The Durban Declaration says, “Forests are more than trees and are fundamental for food security and improved livelihoods. The forests of the future will increase the resilience of communities by providing food, wood energy, shelter, fodder and fibre; generating income and employment to allow communities and societies to prosper; harbouring biodiversity; and supporting sustainable agriculture and human wellbeing by stabilizing soils and climate and regulating water flows.”

“Sustainable forest management requires integrated approaches to land use in addressing the drivers of deforestation and conflicts over land use,” the declaration states. Gender equality and the enthusiasm of the youth as a source of inspiration were emphasized.

“The declaration reflects the extremely rich and diverse set of viewpoints and experiences of all participants in the Congress, who recommended ways to make the vision a reality,” said Tiina Vähänen, deputy director of FAO’s Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division.

An international five-year action plan to recognize the role of trees and forests in ensuring sustainable management of one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater was introduced at the meeting.

At a panel discussion on investments to build a resilient future, World Agroforestry Centre chief Tony Simons said that for sustainability and resilience to be “operational and not just aspirational,” managers must focus on individual action; sustainable production and consumption; and use the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a platform to promote better forestry.

Simons said there is a dearth of bankable projects. He said investors need to see strong, viable pilot cases before they can commit resources.

At the Congress, FAO released its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, covering 234 countries and territories.

It finds that the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and development. Still, over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed by more than half.

Roughly 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equal in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, finds the FAO’s assessment.

Yet an increasing number of forest areas have come under protection, while more countries are improving forest management with better monitoring of forests and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and policy development.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, “The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better. We will not succeed in reducing the impact of climate change and promoting sustainable development if we do not preserve our forests and sustainably use the many resources they offer us.”

During the closing dinner gala, Gertrude Kenyangi of Uganda was presented with the Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award 2015 in recognition of her extraordinary efforts to improve and sustain forests in southwestern Uganda and the people who depend on them. The award carries a cash prize of US$20,000.

Kenyangi described how the Women and Environment Development Organization she founded supports women to lead the way in grassroots agro-forestry initiatives in Uganda and across Africa.


Featured Image: Big trees in a Ugandan forest (Photo by Annette Bouvain creative commons license via Flickr)

Slideshow Images: 01: Miss Earth South Africa 2014, Ilze Saunders, with drummers, creates excitement in the corridors of the World Forestry Congress, September 8, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 02: Flashmob of youths at the World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa, September 9, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 03: Government officials enter the iNkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Center in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on opening day of the World Forestry Congress, September 7, 2015 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

The Evolving Meaning of Sustainability

By Marta Maretich  @maximpactdotcombaby hands plant

Sustainability is a key concept for our times. For impact investors who want to put their capital behind better ways of doing business, it’s an important indicator of investability. But what exactly do we mean when we say “sustainability” or “sustainable”?

The dictionary sheds a little light.

Sustainability:
1. Conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources.
2. Able to be upheld or defended.

Originally taken from the biological sciences, the term sustainability first referred to conservation of natural resources. Though it retains this meaning, sustainability today can mean different things in different contexts. Sustainability in its classic sense and new uses of the term are proliferating as sustainability goes mainstream in business and popular culture.

The mainsteaming of classic sustainability

The definition is changing as the movement goes mainstream. More businesses are taking steps to incorporate sustainability into their operations as well as their performance metrics; national governments are regulating and incentivizing it in a number of new ways. Meanwhile investors are increasingly making non-financial performance, including sustainability, a priority when choosing where to place capital.

All this means that “sustainability” is an evolving idea with increasingly diverse interpretations. Most sustainability efforts still focus on the environment, however, with an emphasis on maintaining ecosystems and conserving natural resources for future use.

Sustainable forestry: Saving forest habitats has been an active area for impact investors. Despite the collapse of carbon markets, organizations like Rainforest Alliance are expanding their activities. Certification schemes like the FSC are helping sustainably sourced wood to become standard in building and consumer goods.

IrrigationSustainable agriculture: Impact intermediaries like Root Capital and development organizations like OPIC have developed successful models for promoting sustainability in agriculture. Encouraged by government regulation and subsidies, big agribusiness companies like Monsanto and multinationals like Coca Cola, are now pursuing sustainability strategies.

Sustainable water use: With changing climate in places like California driving the adoption of more sustainable water policies, businesses and services are springing up to meet a newly-defined demands. Driven by regulation, large multinationals including Unilever are beginning to look at water sustainability from a number of angles: their own use, water use by suppliers, and the water needed to use their products.

Sustainable mining: Mineral extraction is a sector with a raft of social and environmental issues and has been avoided by many social investors. That may change as groups like the IIED work to build the commitment to sustainability across the industry.

Sustainable energy: The focus is on wind, water, solar and other forms of generation and storage, such as hydrogen cell batteries. A popular area for impact investors, even designer Vivienne Westwood has committed GBP£1 million to sustainable energy. Big fossil fuel companies are also putting money into it. Though their motives are often questioned, it is a sign of how far the notion of sustainability is becoming part of the fabric of corporate life in the developed world.

Sustainable consumer goods

Sustainability has taken on a new meaning in consumer markets as it has become a persuasive selling point for everyday goods and services. Public enthusiasm remains high for brands with sustainability credentials and sustainable practices, far from being unusual, are now what consumers expect of businesses.

Sustainable fashion: The fashion industry has been thriving in a throwaway culture, but the photograph of a lady in a dress of flowerssustainable fashion movement hopes to change attitudes and move toward sustainability. To keep up with this vibrant movement, follow top tweeters in fashion sustainability and check out the five top sustainable fashion stories of 2014.

Sustainable building: Changing the way we build and design cities could make a huge difference to our future and, increasingly, governments are regulating for sustainability in construction processes, materials and design. This is reshaping the construction industry, especially in the developed world. Construction companies are adapting the way they source and use products and materials and new education centers, like this one at Harvard, and this one in Edinburgh, are training the sustainable builders of the future.

Sustainable tourism: More people are taking vacations than ever before, but increasingly tourists want to avoid damaging the environment, squandering natural resources or hurting local communities. The global travel industry is waking up to this fact and offering sustainable tourism to the masses. Portals such as Sustainable Tourism Online provide go-to resources for the public and professionals who want tourism to be good for the planet and the communities in host countries.

Evolving meanings: Financial sustainability

Beyond its original, environmental meaning, sustainability has recently developed a financial meaning that applies in some sectors. Governments strive to make public services “sustainable”. Non-profit organisations try to create “sustainable” programs to deliver mission. In this context, sustainable can mean both environmentally sound or financially viable for the future or both.

Sustainable healthcare: Concerns about being able to afford healthcare for citizens in the future is driving innovation in healthcare delivery and finance models.In a bold move, the UK health service, the NHS, is embracing both environmental and financial sustainability.

Sustainable transportation: Concerns about climate change, contracting budgets and public pressure are encouraging many governments, including China’s,  to organize public transportation policies around sustainable principles, in both the financial and evironmental senses.

Sustainable finance: In a final evolution, “sustainable finance” seeks to apply the principles of sustainability to banking and investment. Impact investing and its sister disciplines across the spectrum of social finance including responsible investing, ethical investing, social investing and microfinance form part of this growing movement, which seeks to revolutionize the use of market methods to create better social and environmental outcomes.  Sustainable finance methods are now being put to use in a wide, and growing, range of contexts, with new techniques and approaches developing across the sector. For more on sustainable finance,  browse the top five stories in sustainable finance for 2014.

Conclusion

Sustainability has moved from the margins to the mainstream and is now a widely-accepted approach being incorporated into many areas of business, finance and the consumer marketplace. As it continues to expand its influence, sustainability will continue to evolve new meanings and serve as a paradigm for conservation and wise stewardship of the environment, human and natural resources and, now, capital. This movement is positive, but for impact investors seeking sustainable investments, it will mean taking a closer look at all claims for sustainability and determining exactly what is meant.

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Spotlight Deal: Maximpact forestry deals achieving positive results

Maximpact spotlight deals shine a light on the forestry sector. Currently Maximpact Eco has over thirty forestry deals listed and many of these are seeing a high degree of interest from impact and sustainability investors.

The number of responsible investments in the forestry sectors of the emerging countries may still be limited due to uncertain market environments and a low level of investment experience. However, there are attractive deals in the marketplace now; and those listed with Maximpact Eco are proving attractive to investors looking to place capital in sustainable businesses.

Twenty of these deals have been chosen and show cased to a select group of the Maximpact Eco investor community. As a result six of them were short listed and three of them are now in advanced discussion.

These are very promising results for a sector where, in large investment portfolios (USD 1 billion), forests and forestry usually represent only around one percent of the total portfolio. Yet it isn’t enough: From an impact point of view, more investment is needed worldwide in order to effectively combat forest exploitation combat carbon related issues and build bridges between sustainable forestry and investors.

The fact that forestry deals are getting substantial traction is a step in the right direction, demonstrating that, when it comes to sustainable forestry and impact investors, the attraction is mutual.

Interested in forestry deals? Login or Register now.

Sustainability Drives Impact Investment in Natural Resources

by Marta Maretich

Natural resources have always been precious to mankind. Today, they are more in demand than ever. Population growth, climate change and the rising affluence of developing nations are putting a strain on the planet’s limited resources. Water, arable land, food, fuel and raw materials are seeing a period of unprecedented demand and there is worldwide concern about future shortages and the destruction of ecosystem services, such as photosynthesis, pollination, flood prevention and climate stabilization, that results from over-exploitation.

But while the pressures on our resources are getting bigger; and the consequences of depleting them are getting clearer; there are positive developments, too. A global movement for sustainability is now maturing and this is encouraging an explosion in the kind of responsible resource businesses that belong in our impact portfolios.

Sustainability goes mainstream

Once a thing of the green fringe, sustainability is now mainstream and this is one of the factors that makes natural resources attractive investments now. Governments are the key drivers of today’s sustainability agenda as they increasingly use policy, regulation and subsidy to support the development of new kinds of businesses and convert existing businesses to more sustainable practices. Working in concert with governments, international bodies like the UN, the WEF and the World Bank are launching programs designed encourage sustainability and establish standards in a range of resource sectors. Natural resources are seen as key to development for some of the world’s poorest communities; including rural smallholders and indigenous peoples; and this puts them at the center of international efforts to raise living standards.

Meanwhile, public awareness of sustainability issues increasingly drives consumer choices. Businesses; even those that once ignored the idea; now know that being able to demonstrate sustainability makes economic sense. Jobs in sustainability are multiplying as businesses hire analysts, consultants and other specialists to manage their sustainability and reporting commitments.

Resources take center stage

With sustainability a growth area for world markets; and a priority for many world governments; there is a new focus on natural resource investing. The emphasis now is on finding ways to make more of nature’s gifts while preserving and maintaining them for the future. New businesses; and new ways of doing business; are springing up, encouraged by government policy and shaped by the expertise of development and philanthropic organizations who have blazed trails in the areas of sustainable use of resources.

This is good news for impact investors looking to place their capital in the natural resources sector. Here are some of the trends and developments in four resource areas: Oceans, Minerals, Forestry and Land.

Oceans

The world’s salty waters have been a focal point for resources-based activity in recent months. Concerns about overfishing and acidification, a consequence of the seas absorbing high CO2 emissions, are leading governments, environmental campaigners and business leaders to place a new emphasis on the oceans and this is changing the investing landscape.

On the governmental side, 2013 saw the US instituting the National Oceans Policy, joining other governments including Australia, South Africa, Namibia and the Philippines in establishing comprehensive, future-focused policies for ocean resource management. The social enterprise sector kept in step, highlighting the issue by including an ocean themed “track” at SOCAP13. For the first time veteran campaigners and ocean champions discussed ocean topics along with journalists, entrepreneurs, and impact investors from other sectors including small scale agriculture, health, and poverty alleviation; all of which are connected to ocean and coastal issues. Meanwhile, in the private sector, The Economist is throwing its weight behind sustainability issues as it plays host to the World Oceans Summit in California in February of this year.

These developments set the stage for a mini-boom in sustainable marine businesses in areas like fishing, aquaculture and energy and mineral extraction. New government regulations will also drive growth in compliance industries, such as environmental remediation and business-to-business services providing sustainability reports and the like.

Minerals

Mining; and its products, mineral; have a bad reputation in the world of sustainability. Mineral extraction is widely associated with human rights violations, environmental damage and conflict. For those reasons it remains a largely unexplored sector for impact investors. Yet in the mainstream financial markets, mining is big business, with growth driven by demand from the resource-hungry emerging economies like China, India and Brazil; demand that is not going away anytime soon. This fact, plus the alluring possibility of helping to bring change to the mining sector, means that impact and sustainable investors should think again about minerals when looking for places to commit their capital.

The tools for change may already be in our hands. An excellent piece of research conducted by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) charts the significant progress made in mining policy, oversight and governance over the last decade, especially by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM), a coalition of mining companies that has embraced sustainability standards and put issues like indigenous rights, community development and climate change on its agenda.

The IIED report indicates a rising awareness and acceptance of sustainability in the industry itself; a hopeful sign for the future. The challenge for the next 10 years, it concludes, will be implementing those standards we now have more widely. Such a move could transform the mining industry; and impact investors, with an insistence on standards and reporting, could play an important part in this transformation.

Groups like the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), which works on behalf of an estimated 20 million small-scale and artisanal miners worldwide, are already hard at work bringing change. They have developed supply chains for sustainably mined products and created the Fairtrade and Fairmined gold standards for the industry. Deals have already been struck with jewellery manufactures and, like conflict-free diamonds before them, these ethical products should find favor with consumers as they hit the marketplace in the near future.

Conflict minerals have been a contentious issue for some time and a measure of progress has been made in addressing the human and environmental costs of mineral extraction in places like the Congo. Electronics industry giant Intel has now moved to make all its microprocessors free of conflict minerals. The industry pressure group, the Electronics Industry Citizen Coalition (EICC), has compiled a useful list of conflict-free smelters and refiners, while the NGO the Enough Project has ranked companies for their use of conflict-free minerals.

Yet the path ahead is not yet clear for sustainable mining; and this is another reason for impact and social investors to enter this market. A powerful coalition of business leaders recently petitioned a panel of federal judges to overturn a provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that requires companies to disclose their use of minerals from Africa. This would be a major setback for the movement for sustainable mining. However, the presence of more social investors and conscientious corporations in this resource sector could make all the difference to the way mining develops in the future.

Forestry

Unlike mining, forestry is already a popular focus for impact investors. Many sustainable forestry enterprises have cropped up in recent years, working to conserve; and sustainably exploit; wooded environments across the globe and these remain attractive investments.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though. Carbon offset schemes were central to many forestry enterprises and the collapse of the world carbon markets in 2012 was a blow to the sector. Some forestry sustainability accreditation programs have come under fire, too, and there has been a shakeout in certification schemes that many hope will lead to a more reliable system.

Despite this, impact investors, like the Packard Foundation, have largely stuck with forestry because of its many wider benefits. Sustainable forest management supports biodiversity and habitat conservation, creates local jobs, protects indigenous communities, fosters eco-tourism and recreation, contributes to food stability, and aids climate stabilization; as well as having the potential to generate diverse revenue streams and attract tax breaks.

Meanwhile new technologies are expanding the horizons of sustainable forestry. Innovations, such as the use of drones and sophisticated geo-mapping techniques, are advancing the science of forest management, making it possible to do more with woodlands while we protect them. Eco-tourism and boutique woodland businesses are taking off in many parts of the world. The link between agriculture and forest habitats is contributing to the search for ways to bring prosperity to some of the world’s poorest communities. At the same time, big multinationals such as paper manufacturers are bowing to regulatory pressure and seeking ways to develop more sustainable supply chains, a shift which will have implications for sustainable forestry businesses.

Land

Land is a resource that offers a host of opportunities for impact investing both in emerging and developed economies. Essential to human life and prosperity, land produces food, water, wood, fibre, fuel and minerals and, when managed responsibly, it also provides vital ecosystem services such as photosynthesis, pollination, nutrient cycling, water purification, soil formation, climate stabilisation and flood prevention.

Increasingly, land use and ownership is seen as the key to solving many of the world’s most pressing environmental and social problems. Large international organizations like the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) are now promoting responsible land investments as a way to halt land degradation and preserve the integrity of our natural capital. Land and property rights are also central to poverty alleviation, and securing land for use by rural populations is a priority for many development organizations.

Yet, as is true across the natural resources sector, there is a right way and a wrong way to invest in land. Oxfam has raised concerns about a global land grab where big investors, often foreign governments and pension funds, buy up large tracts of farmland, especially in parts Africa, Latin America and Asia, squeezing local people out. Their report drew attention to the negative impact on local communities of the wrong kind of investing and led to a call to the World Bank to end its participation in these deals.

To make sure they are part of the solution, not part of the problem, impact investors need to be aware of the issues. The right kind of investing respects the rights of locals to “Free and Prior Informed Consent”, promotes land rights and good land governance and fosters food security both locally and internationally. To avoid possible pitfalls, investors would do well to tune into the conversation about land use here and here, and subscribe to sets of principles like these and these.

In the developed world, land investment is often part of a move to a more green and sustainable lifestyle. Iroquois Valley Farms, chosen as one of the Impact Assets 50, leases farmland to organic farmers, while Beartooth Capital acquires western ranches for conservation and use as eco-tourism destinations. In cities, land acquisition plays a part in neighborhood regeneration and community home ownership schemes. With these models turning profits, and the movements behind them gaining popularity, we can expect to see more opportunities for land investment in developed economies in the future.

Conclusion

Natural resources have long been a promising sector for impact investors, especially those with an emphasis on the environment. What’s new is the increasing involvement of governments in supporting sustainability. For some natural resource industries, this is putting sustainability on the map for the first time. For others, government support and improved standards are advancing the development of sustainable practices and sparking innovation. All of this is good news for impact investors who want to put their capital behind businesses that contribute to the future health and prosperity of the planet and its inhabitants.

Image credit: 123RF

The IPCC Summary Report on Climate Change: What it Means for Impact Investing

By Marta Maretich

On 27 September 2013, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first of three volumes of its fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The long-awaited report summary emerged amid a flurry of media coverage and a volley of commentary, both pro and contra. Its main conclusions were clear, however: climate change is real, its effects are already measurable, and it is being caused by human activity.

AR5 Summary Highlights

– Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe.

– Warming in the climate system is unequivocal.

– Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is projected to be likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 in all but the lowest scenario considered, and likely to exceed 2ºC for the two high scenarios

– Projections of climate change are based on a new set of four scenarios of future greenhouse gas concentrations and aerosols, spanning a wide range of possible futures. The Working Group I report assessed global and regional-scale climate change for the early, mid-, and later 21st century.

Source: the UK government

The summary report has sparked controversy worldwide.

Some rushed to embrace the findings while others immediately set out to disprove the science and question the motives behind it. The world’s reaction is a measure of how emotive; and divisive; the issue of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change has become for governments, businesses and individuals in the years since the first IPCC report in 1990. With passionate feelings on both sides, the controversy is set to continue.

Challenging times for believers

The report’s publication follows a rough period for those who believe that climate change poses a threat to life on earth. In 2001, the US, under the administration of George W. Bush, rejected the Kyoto agreement on global warming. Flaws in the AR4, IPCC’s 2007 report; among them the apparent claim that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035; drew intense fire from critics and distracted attention away from AR4’s core findings. They provided more fuel for the so-called climate change deniers; those who hold that global warming is a hoax or a conspiracy to slow progress.

From 2008, the economic crisis prompted world leaders to put economic growth ahead of environmental protection, with many governments backing away from previous emission-lowering commitments. The worldwide carbon market, including the EU’s cap-and-trade scheme, essentially collapsed in 2012, leaving questions about its efficacy as a means to control emissions.

Against this background the summary report comes as a wakeup call from the most respected source of climate science the world has. The new report has been widely accepted as the most convincing body of evidence of climate change and the human role in it so far. For impact investors, it could have profound importance on many levels.

What does it mean for the impact investing sector?

It’s fairly safe to say that most of those involved in the impact investing sector are already convinced of the reality of climate change. Many already focus their investing activity on areas relating to climate change such as agriculture and agribusiness, food security, forestry, land and water use, waste management and reduction, clean and renewable energy, energy efficiency and cleantech. For this reason, it’s likely that impact intermediaries, impact investing funds and social entrepreneurs will take the IPCC report as a renewed call to action.


However, the new IPCC report will change the impact investing landscape for everyone. Impact investors will see the effects of changes in government policy, the attitude of big business and international public opinion.
What will be some of the main currents affecting our impact investing strategies?

Governments respond with policy

The release of the summary report was a huge event, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the IPCC findings. The 19th annual meeting of the UN Climate Change Convention will be held in Warsaw from 11-22 November. At this meeting, the IPCC will deliver further scientific evidence to diplomats in order to facilitate policy decisions. A new legal commitment with respect to carbon emission will then be drawn up, replacing the 1994 accord. This is scheduled to take effect by 2015.

In preparation for these events, governments across the world are already formulating their policy stances. There are questions about how individual governments will react in the face of the new evidence. Climate change remains highly controversial in some developed countries, notably the US and Australia where it has become an issue that divides the political left and right. India, China and other rapidly industrializing countries are also wary: they have so far been unprepared to agree emissions cuts unless more developed countries do the same. Meanwhile island nations like Tuvalu, and South Asian countries like Bangladesh, both highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, argue for a robust international response.

For impact investors, one thing is certain: there will be a new legal framework guiding climate change policy worldwide in 2015. Whatever the shape of this framework, it will change the investing landscape in many countries and have far-reaching effects for impact investors in many parts of the world. Much will depend on the structure and extent of the new laws, which will be hotly debated by governments. Regardless of the outcome, things will change for impact investors. The direct effects will be felt through the policies, programs and incentives governments create in response.

Where governments take a lead

In places where government policy supports pro-climate investing there are likely to be more opportunities for collaborative investments working across government agencies, impact intermediaries, impact funds and private investors.

Collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements are already a characteristic of the impact investing world. In the UK, Sustainable Development Capital was awarded £50 million by the UK government’s Department of Business, Innovation and Skills to invest in energy efficiency infrastructure projects. Big Society Capital, an independent fund created by the government, invests in many climate-friendly initiatives, especially in cleantech, energy efficiency, and sustainable energy for disadvantaged communities in Britain.

The UK provides what is probably the best current example of a dynamic government-lead approach to market-based social investing. As other governments take action to meet new policy commitments, they will be looking for solutions and partners.

Seasoned impact intermediaries and funds; of which there are a growing number; can bring specialist skills and knowledge to collaborative cross-sectoral arrangements for financing impactful businesses. They are also in position to benefit from government subsidies and tax incentives focused on meeting carbon reduction targets. For these reasons, the ability to work for and with government could prove essential for impact investors and the businesses they finance.

..and where they don’t

Where government leadership is lacking; and incentives such as tax breaks, subsidies and government co-investment are not forthcoming; global development agencies, philanthropic organizations, activists and impact investors will have to take the initiative in catalyzing the response to climate change. This may not be a bad thing: some commentators believe that private action, not government intervention, will be the key front in the fight against human-caused climate change. There’s already evidence that governments have been scaling back their commitments to climate change action and pushing responsibility onto NGOs and private companies, while private investors have been picking up the slack.

Many organizations and activists have been operating this way for decades and will continue to do so regardless of what governments do in response to the IPCC findings. The US provides many examples. The same country that rejected the Kyoto Protocol; and produced some of the most virulent and well-funded examples of climate change denial; has also given the world some of the most progressive models of local and state support for climate-friendly businesses and approaches.

This independence has made parts of the US leaders in areas like clean energy, energy efficiency, renewables, organic and sustainable agriculture and sustainable forestry. The States boasts some of the most mature markets in these new kinds of businesses, proving that federal government policy needn’t be an obstacle to progress.

The new markets remain volatile and, despite everything, still subject to the effects of government policy and subsidy (the rollercoaster of cleantech provides one example). Yet it looks as though these market areas will grow as communities and values-driven businesses, if not governments, look for new ways to react to climate change. This could be a growth area for impact investors and businesses.

Mainstream businesses go greener

Large multinational corporations and mainstream business will also feel the effect of the new climate change policies at ground level; and this will have a knock-on effect for impact investors and the businesses they capitalize.

All businesses will need to respond to the international regulations that grow out of the new IPCC report findings. More directly, they will need to meet national and regional standards set locally, and these too will be affected by the report. There also seems to be a feeling in the corporate sector that an upturn in the economy will leave them freer to take steps toward carbon emissions reduction. Many see a “green” profile as key to their corporate image. A growing number of organizations in the developed world are making sustainability a core value in their operations and employing sustainability professionals to help them achieve it.

All this will drive the market for services that support sustainability and carbon emission reduction in companies; for example, consultancies that help organizations shrink their carbon footprint and conserve resources. This will create a possible growth area for impact business-to-business providers, offering services that embed sustainability and carbon-thrift into corporate operations practice.

CSR, now a norm for business, will continue to play a key role in the business/government/climate change triangle. Already an important factor, CSR will become more central as the need for businesses to meet emissions targets increases under new regulations; and new, very real resource pressures anticipated by the IPCC report. A closer relationship between CSR and impact investing could open new avenues for corporations to use their considerable resources for good. Supports like the impact business CSR Hub, which helps track the effectiveness of CSR efforts, will help businesses hone their choices and give the public information about the real effect of corporate claims.

Beyond this, there’s a trend toward mainstreaming businesses that once were considered alternative. Words like sustainability, clean or green technology, renewable and clean energy; all important areas for lowering carbon emissions; already feature prominently in the reports of large multinational companies. General Electric invests in renewable energy projects, while ExxonMobile has programs for reducing its greenhouse emissions and innovating carbon capture technologies and biofuels made from algae. This is largely an effect of earlier government regulation on emissions. But it’s partly due to public pressure and, for some of the companies, canny strategic positioning for a future where business will have to be energy efficient to be successful.

The fact that these companies continue non-climate friendly business practices alongside these progressive ones leaves them open to the accusation of greenwashing from some quarters. Nonetheless, these examples are evidence of a mainstreaming of climate-friendly technologies and approaches in business. This trend suggests that the demand for them will continue and increase, especially as resources, such as fossil fuels, arable land and water become more scarce, as the IPCC findings seem to indicate they will.

This “greening” trend among multinationals could create opportunities for impact intermediaries, dynamic impact enterprises and engaged impact investors. Those who successfully bridge what’s been called the “pioneer gap” and manage to scale up socially and environmentally beneficial businesses to the point where they can join the mainstream, will be able to attract investment by multinationals and a wider pool of “neutral” investors; those for whom positive impact goals are not a motive for investment. This could increase the flow of capital into beneficial enterprises exponentially; and finally establish impact investing as a normal way to do finance.

Reducing Carbon Emissions: Key sectors for impact investment

(Maximpact Deal Listing)Agriculture

Agribusiness

Cleantech

Biotech

Renewable Energy

Energy Efficiency

Forestry

Waste Reduction

Land Remediation

Water

Sanitation

The public demands change

Another important consequence of the IPCC report will be its influence on public attitudes toward climate change; this too will have consequences for impact businesses and for the practice of impact investing.

Some recent surveys of public attitudes in developed countries have recorded a shift toward a more skeptical view of human-generated climate change. Pro-climate-change commentators put this down to the success of a well-organized media campaigns by special interest groups opposed to more government regulation.

But there is also a common-sense issue: people doubt the science when they don’t perceive significant climate change around them. Extreme weather events, such as the last year’s heavy snowfall in the US and the high temperatures in Australia, have been shown to produce large swings in public opinion in favor of belief in climate change. As events such as these become more common, as the IPCC report suggests they will, it’s likely that the climate will make its own case for action.

Still, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests that the public already accepts the idea of anthropogenic climate change and wants to see governments, businesses and individuals do something about it. The IPCC report will strengthen the convictions of many who already feel that we need to change tack. As impact investing becomes more accepted as a means of effecting positive change, this group will be supportive, buying products and services from impact businesses and providing funding, through micro-lending and crowdfunding platforms. The popular movement for divestment from fossil fuels could create a whole generation of small investors looking for more climate-friendly ways to deploy their capital.

People in developing countries; some of whom will be the worst hit by the effects of climate change; may need more convincing. As mentioned before, the governments of countries like China and India look on moves to limit carbon emissions as curbs to their growth by developed nations. Similarly, people in the developing world focus on the need for economic growth and view the talk of controlling emissions and resource consumption with suspicion.

There is some evidence that this is beginning to change. As in the developed world, people in economically emerging countries are beginning to see the effects of climate change for themselves; often in disastrous forms. Extreme weather events such as droughts and floods have the power to change opinions there, too. And there is anecdotal evidence that those who work on the land, farmers, are seeing the changes firsthand. These local observations, plus the hard lessons of extreme natural forces, may shift world opinion in time to make a difference.

For people in the developing world, the impact investing model could offer a middle way between economic development and climate stewardship. Its market-based approach encourages economic growth, while its commitment to positive impact has the power to channel that growth in climate-friendly directions. In this sense, the multiple bottom line of impact investing holds out hope for developed countries, too, who also need to find new ways to thrive economically without further damaging the planet.

Impact: a powerful tool to counter climate change

It looks likely that the IPCC report will generate a new groundswell of activity around the issue of climate change and this could be a boon for the growing, diversifying impact investing sector.

Impact investing’s pragmatic approach to finance, and its commitment to capitalizing impactful businesses, make it a powerful weapon in the fight to save the planet from the effects of global warming. Its market methods translate across borders and geographies, providing solutions for developed and developing countries alike. Its flexible techniques can be used in many contexts to support the kind of businesses, processes and technologies that can help minimize climate damage while supporting economic development.

All this means that it’s time to for the impact sector to get to work. There are still market infrastructure issues that need to be solved: impact metrics and the lack of exits are two important examples. More research is needed; investment models need to be tested, honed and replicated. Education for impact professionals, now in its early days, still needs to be developed as the sector expands, professionalizes and becomes, in time, part of mainstream finance.

However, if some of these limitations can be overcome, impact investing could play a key role in helping mankind develop an effective response to the threat of climate change. Let’s all hope the warning has come in time; and we are up to the job.

Building Bridges Between Impact Investors and Sustainable Forestry

photograph of trees in a woodGuest post by Alexander Watson, CEO OpenForests

My name is Alexander Watson, I am a forestry scientist with a background in Social Banking and Social Finance and founder of OpenForests, a consulting company with the mission to finance and develop social and biodiverse forestry projects.

The challenge

The annual worldwide deforestation is about 13 million hectares, predominantly in the tropics. We believe that reforestation is one opportunity to counter deforestation. At the same time it can help to satisfy the increasing demand for timber, which is estimated to grow by 50 percent by 2050.
This is why considerable investments in the forestry sector are needed to effectively combat forest exploitation. Responsible investments in the forestry sectors of the emerging countries are still limited due to uncertain market environments and a low level of investment experience.

Lessons Learned

The goal of OpenForests is to understand these barriers and deliver services to overcome them and unleash the existing investment potentials. But how do we do this in practice? In this article I am going to share our experience working with project developers and investors and present tools of which we think are useful to build strong bridges between investors and projects.

In recent years we have been working in Latin America, Europe and Asia and conducted various feasibility studies and developed sustainable forestry and agroforestry investment projects. We found that the major limitation for project developers to scale up their operations was a lack of sufficient funding. As reforestation projects are very capital intensive in the beginning, project developers often need of seed funding. This is especially true in the case of sustainable reforestation with long rotation cycles.

But why do some projects obtain funding and others not? On the project level we found common patterns that kept investors from funding these projects.

The Power of Data Management and Reporting

First, we learned that the data management and reporting was often insufficient. Although in many cases project developers have shown a high level of experience in managing their forest assets, forestry projects often needed to improve the consistency and timeliness of their forestry data.

A plausible, consistent and complete project documentation is required in order to make projects attractive to investors. Such documentation has to include financial data as well as social and environmental performance metrics. Only by understanding project processes it is possible to improve performance while facilitating a transparent project insight for investors. At OpenForests we improve project management and documentation by providing a customized Forest Information System, a centralized geo-database to organize and share project information amongst all participants.

Investors Need Better, More Transparent Information

Now turning to the investors’ side. When working with investment groups from the U.S. and Europe they revealed their great interest in extending their investment activities to emerging forest investment countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia. This interest is mainly due to the higher returns that can result from the relatively higher forest growth rates and lower land and labor costs, than it would be feasible in developed countries.

However, investors hesitate because of the lack of high quality information about the forestry sectors of these countries. Furthermore forest investment markets are often poorly organized and non-transparent which makes it difficult to source investment opportunities.

To help investors get the information they need, we developed services and tools like a set of risk assessment guidelines, a marketplace for sustainable forest investments and drone-based remote sensing system, to help investors to assess risks more accurately. Using modern information technology, the complexity and heterogeneity of forest ecosystems, management and market environment can be captured and understood more easily. Equipped with these tools, investors are able to explore high potential emerging forest forest investment markets more securely.

With our work, we wish to reinforce and unleash the potentials of the emerging forest investment markets and make Impact Investing for Sustainable Forestry a strong force countering deforestation.

For more about OpenForests and to source forestry deals.

See more forestry deals on Maximpact.com. Not a member? Register today.

Saving our forests from the effects of climate change

By Ana LaRue

Most people are still navigating through the data of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, but it’s overall message is clear: anthropogenic (or human-made) climate change is already taking its toll on the life on this planet.

In a series of blogposts, Maximpact will be looking at what the IPCC’s findings mean for different parts of the impact investing sector. In the first of the series, we focus on forestry.

What do the findings mean for our forests?

Global warming is the best-known consequence of climate disruption, and its effects will probably intensify other global problems including damaging the health of our forest ecosystems. Forests play a key role in the mitigation of climate change but they are also highly affected by the stresses that result from it. Deforestation creates a vicious cycle: increased deforestation leads to increased greenhouse gas emission and increased climate change, which in turn poses additional threats to forest ecosystems.

The IPCC report covers several aspects of climate change that impact directly on forests.

Increases in CO2 emissions:
With no doubt, concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. This may not necessarily be a negative thing for our forests. Given sufficient water and nutrients, increases in atmospheric CO2 may enable trees to be more productive in mitigating climate change.

However, given the substantial role forests play in the global carbon cycle, there are other considerations. Deforestation and forest degradation through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development, destructive logging and fires account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to a United Nations initiative that uses market and financial incentives to combat deforestation (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation), the world’s forests are disappearing at the alarming rate of one football field’s-worth every few seconds. This means that meeting the UNFCCC’s (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) target of 2 ºC rise will be practically impossible to achieve without also reducing emissions from the forest sector.


Changes in precipitation:
The IPCC predicts the contrast between wet and dry regions will continue to increase, with wet areas getting wetter and dry regions growing more parched. This will likely change the availability of water, altering forest growth cycles due to higher drought in some areas and extreme precipitation and flooding in others. Although forests can be resilient to some degree of change, more pronounced episodes could wipe out more sensitive local tree species. Variations in precipitation can also lead to natural disasters such as monsoons, extreme winds, floods, cyclones or extreme droughts. This could make ecosystem recovery even more challenging.


Increases in temperature:
Twelve of the warmest years in recorded history occurred during the last fifteen years; and the IPCC report predicts that it will only get more intense. When it comes to our forests, variation in temperatures can alter growing seasons and shift geographic ranges. Forests facilitate food, water and air production, help to minimize storm damage and produce a wide range of natural medicines. A shift in the growing seasons could mean extinction of certain tree species that could no longer adapt to these changing conditions. Changing temperatures may also be responsible for additional threats to forests, such as pest outbreaks, fires, and drought.

What can we do today?

While some people still question whether IPPC’s prognosis is 100% on track, we can no longer argue about whether the human race plays a role in climate change. It seems sure we’re all heading for a period of global change and uncertainty. What seems less sure is what we can do about it.

Government policy will be highly significant in determining the response to the threat of climate change. However the wheels of government turn slowly; and there is still significant reluctance on the part of some governments to acknowledge the reality of climate change at all. For a quicker, more committed response, it will necessary to look elsewhere: toward private investors, philanthropic bodies and corporate certification schemes.


Impact investing –  forestry:
Impact investors, funds and intermediaries are increasingly attracted to business incentives that involve sustainable forestry, but they often have a hard time locating deals. Collaborative platforms like OpenForests and Maximpact can provide different sector-specific opportunities to locate attractive deals and collaborate towards making a measurable impact.


Philanthropy – forestry:
I
ndividuals can choose to directly donate to foundations that support forestry initiatives such the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the WWF. Philanthropic donations can minimize specialized knowledge needed when deciding how to maximize impact in a specific sector.


Global certification standards:
Companies can also work with different certification programs that guarantee the product they are choosing is made with wood from a certified sustainably-managed forest. To help consumers and companies know which products come from sustainably managed forests, several certification schemes have emerged, most notably those by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI).

The IPCC prognosis is also clear in one more thing: there is still time to do something about climate disruption. Forests provide us with valuable resources including clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat, carbon storage, and a variety of forest products including medicine. Climate change is a threat and what we are able to do today will have a direct effect on the forests of future generations.

Interested in forestry deals? Login or Register now.

[Image credit: Morgue File]

How to Find Impact Investors to Finance Your Sustainable Business

By Marta Maretich

Originally posted on the OpenForests blog. OpenForests is a consultancy specializing in sustainable forestry projects.

So, you’ve written the business plan. Congratulations! (And thanks to OpenForests for their useful guide to writing a business plan for a sustainable forestry enterprise.) Now you’re ready to look past the trees and focus on the forest; the wide world of impact investment. It’s time to go out and raise capital. But where do you start?

Decide what kind of investment you’re looking for

Capital is capital, right? Not exactly. There are many different ways of structuring finance and many different ways a business can relate to its investors. Writing your business plan has given you an idea of the amount of investment you need. Now it’s time to think about the kind of investment you’re looking for.

Are you looking for debt or equity? How long will you need the money for? Do you want partners who will offer more than just capital, who will give you advice and contacts, for example? Do you need pure capital, or a blend of capital and grants?

To find out which model might work for you, tune in to the wider world of impact investing and learn about your options. Find projects similar to your own and research how their funding is structured and who their investors are. Websites and company reports can help you form a picture of what’s out there and develop more knowledge about funding choices.

Build impact measurement into your business plan

In the world of impact investment, impact measurement is as important as financial return. Impact investors look for financially viable businesses that have clear, defined and above all measurable social and/or environmental outcome targets.

To succeed with impact investors, impact metrics need to be prominent in your business plan and your pitch. You’ll need to decide which measures will mean success for you, then define how you will measure and report them. This blog by Jonanthan Kuo shows how important metrics are to Acumen, a successful impact investing pioneer.

How do you know which metrics to include? There are several systems on offer right now but IRIS, from the GIIN is a good starting place for those new to impact metrics. This standardized system offers a broad range of metrics that can be adapted to suit the needs of your business. The key is to choose metrics that are realistic, practicable, fit into your operations and serve your strategic goals. For more on the best way to “do metrics” see my recent blog post for Maximpact.com.

Research investors

The range of impact investors is growing and so is their spectrum of approaches. Some impact investors simply provide capital, others mix catalytic capital with grants to promote growth. Still others work as venture philanthropists, bringing hands-on expertise and networks to help businesses grow. Getting familiar with the different types of investors will help you target the ones that can help you most.

Conferences like SOCAP are a good place to learn about and meet potential impact investors; and if you can’t be there in person, they make videos of many of their discussions and panels available on the web.

Industry blogs like OpenForests, media streams like FastCoexist or Huffpost feature stories about impact businesses and the investors that support them. Our impact deal portal, Maximpact.com, hosts all of these types of investors on it, all of them actively looking for deals. Do your groundwork and understand your options.

Types of impact investors

  • Accelerators, Hubs and Intermediaries
  • Angel Investors
  • Venture Philanthropists
  • Enterprise Capitalists
  • Large corporations with sustainability agendas
  • Foundations
  • Family offices
  • Governments
  • International development agencies

Cultivate relationships

Business, like life, is all about relationships. Cultivating good relationships with a number of potential investors will pay off now and in the future.

Make a short list of impact investors to approach with your business plan and research them carefully before you set up a meeting. Identify their impact mission- do they want to stop deforestation, protect indigenous communities, promote synergies between agriculture and forest habitats?

Find out what investments they’ve made in the past and learn the names and backgrounds of key personnel; impact investing remains a sector where personal values matter, even at the highest levels.

Once you understand your investor, you can speak to their interests and demonstrate how your project will help them meet both their financial and social or environmental impact goals.Be prepared for a two-way dialogue. Your investors may have strong views about your business model and impact goals. Keep an open mind and be prepared to negotiate.

For more insights into how impact investors think about business, see this post by Tilman Ehrbeck.

Find out more about Maximpact.com or list a deal on our global platform.

[Image credit: 123rf]