Analysis – Forest emission reductions get a facelift, with $ 1 billion in new funding
BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Few people these days would disagree that the world’s forests need better protection.
But many conservation projects that offer carbon credits have an image problem, with critics claiming they allow buyers to offset their global warming-related emissions without reducing them and have limited climate benefits.
Former US President and global warming skeptic Donald Trump turned heads by signing to the 1t.org tree planting initiative in 2020, citing the need to preserve “the majesty of God’s creation and the beauty of our world ”.
And at the 2019 Madrid climate conference, the oil giants raised eyebrows when they backed an effort to create a global market for carbon credits generated by projects to protect forests, soils and others. wetlands.
The LEAF Coalition, a new billion dollar forest conservation program supported by the United States, Britain and Norway alongside multinational companies such as Amazon, Unilever and Nestle, hopes to be able to restore power. shine to pay for nature-based emission reductions.
At the launch of Earth Day last month, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg stressed that tropical forests are essential for tackling climate change and biodiversity loss, “and have received much less attention and attention. funding than they deserve ”.
The coalition is “a crucial first step to change this” as companies and donor governments will reward tropical forest nations for their positive results in reducing deforestation.
“I am delighted that large companies are now stepping up to provide this financing in addition to reducing their own emissions,” Solberg said in a statement.
LEAF, which stands for Reduce Emissions by Accelerating Forest Financing, differs from previous programs in that participating companies must prove that they are already making efforts to reduce their emissions in accordance with science, and the fact that it is will apply to entire countries or regions.
Manish Bapna, acting CEO of the US think tank World Resources Institute (WRI), which is not part of the coalition, said he “offers an important new approach that can help expand funding for forest protection. , without diluting emission reductions elsewhere ”.
Forests may provide more than a fifth of the emission reductions needed by 2030 to keep global warming at relatively safe levels, but efforts to protect them represent less than 3% of climate finance, Bapna noted.
Meanwhile, rainforest loss increased 12% from 2019 to 2020, releasing emissions equivalent to 570 million cars last year alone, according to a study supported by the WRI in March.
‘NOT AN EASY EXIT’
Gabriel Labbate, who leads the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) work on reducing emissions from deforestation in Latin America, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the LEAF Coalition had “strict requirements” for ensure that “this is not an easy way out of the problem for climate polluters”.
To join, companies must use approved standards to set, measure and publish short- and long-term goals to reduce emissions from their operations and products that will bring them down to net zero by mid-century, call shows. for proposals.
The alliance, which aims to sign the first contracts between tropical forest nations, donors and companies by the end of the year, also has rules ensuring that emission reductions from funded forest projects do not. will be counted only once.
In most cases, these reductions will help meet the targets set by forest nations in their national climate plans under the Paris Agreement to address global warming.
Businesses and governments have until July to submit proposals to LEAF, aiming to achieve at least 100 million tonnes of emissions reductions in the first round, at a cost of $ 10 per tonne.
Discussions are underway so far with a dozen tropical forest “jurisdictions” – countries or subnational regions – while Costa Rica, Guyana and the Brazilian states of Amapá, Tocantins and Maranhao have already taken steps to comply. qualify, said Emergent, a nonprofit. manage the initiative.
Its chief executive, Eron Bloomgarden, said the companies would sign contracts with jurisdictions that would receive annual payments for the delivery of an agreed amount of independently verified emission reductions over a five-year period.
These contracts will send a “long-term demand signal” to governments “to give them the confidence to increase their ambition to protect forests”, with donors guaranteeing to purchase all credits not purchased by the private sector, a. he noted.
“This alone is not enough to ensure zero deforestation, but it is an important starting point,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
UNEP Labbate noted that the price of $ 10 per tonne for the first tranche of emission reductions is double what other large-scale financing efforts have provided so far, including those led by the Fund. green for the climate and the World Bank.
But, he added, it is still lower than what countries say it costs to ensure effective forest protection – around $ 16 a tonne in Costa Rica – and UNEP’s estimate of $ 30. would change the economics of forest conservation and restoration ”.
United Nations agencies, Emerging, Environmental Defense Fund and others are working on a new global effort to catalyze the funding of a gigaton (1 billion tonnes) of high-quality emission reductions per year thanks to natural climate solutions based on forests by 2025.
LEAF launches the “Green Gigaton Challenge”, but its first contracts will only achieve 10% of the mid-decade target, which must increase to 5 gigatonnes per year by 2030, in order to limit global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, Labbate says.
“I hope that in 10 years we will look back … and realize that is when the boat started to change course,” he said.
Emerging Director Bloomgarden said another prerequisite for LEAF’s success is the involvement of forest and indigenous communities, whose views and contributions will be solicited in the coming months before any purchase agreement is concluded.
Tuntiak Katan, an indigenous leader of the Shuar people of Ecuador, supported the initiative in a joint commentary in Newsweek magazine, but said it would only be successful if the United States and coalition partners “Worked closely” with indigenous and forest communities.
Other Green groups have also issued a warning about how LEAF will work in practice.
Gilles Dufrasne, policy officer for the nonprofit advocacy group Carbon Market Watch, said that funding for forest conservation is needed on a large scale, “but we can’t use that as an excuse to keep polluting.”
“Today, too many companies plan to offset their emissions with reductions that are already recorded by other countries,” he added.
Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; edited by Jumana Farouky. Please mention the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org/climate