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COP 21 and global forests

Paris Agreement and what does it hold for landscape restoration

As the dust has settled after the 21st Paris Conference of the Parties, COP21, we decided to revisit the agreement and see what it has to say about large scale forest and ecosystem restoration. 

Honestly, after observing and participating in the Climate Change negotiations for years, any global deal seemed like a fanciful dream. With all the complexities, innumerable stakeholders, contradicting demands and political and financial pressures, finding a consensus seemed impossible. But the miracle has happened. For the first time in history, almost every country in the world has agreed to join forces in battling Climate Change and preserving our Planet. 

The Paris Agreement is an unprecedented consensus that establishes several ambitious goals and covers all the crucial areas identified as essential for a landmark conclusion:

•Mitigation – reducing emissions fast enough to achieve the temperature goal

•A transparency system and global stock-take – accounting for climate action

•Adaptation – strengthening ability of countries to deal with climate impacts

•Loss and damage – strengthening ability to recover from climate impacts

•Support – including finance, for nations to build clean, resilient futures

First, it acknowledges the need for a long-term temperature goal of remaining below 2 degrees and striving to remain below 1.5. Second, it establishes a mitigation goal of reaching a balance between the emissions and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases, meaning that as the carbon capture and storage teghnoodies develop, human-made CO2 emissions shall simultaneously decrease as well. And finally the Agreement establishes an adaptation goal to strengthen the resilience to climate change. And this is where the forests come in. 

The importance of the global forests and landscapes has been widely acknowledged. The REDD+ Framework is just one of the tools designed to conserve forests, and the Sustainable Developments Goals (SDGs) also seek to contribute to this through halting deforestation by 2020. And we are glad to see that these frameworks have been built upon during the COP 21. 

The CIFOR blog celebrates the The Article 5.2 of the Paris Agreement that goes further to encourage ‘implementation’ and ‘support’ of REDD+, and provides international endorsement of both REDD+ and of a joint mitigation and adaptation approach to the integral and sustainable management of forests. It also reaffirms the importance of non-carbon benefits and, in doing so confirms the broader scope of REDD+ to be a market and a non-market mechanism that is as much applicable to adaptation actions as it is to mitigation.

We think that this is really important that the forests are considered as holistic ecosystems, that provide multiple benefits to the society, wildlife, biodiversity and the global climate, instead of being viewed merely as carbon sinks. We are thrilled the the importance of non-carbon benefits has been acknowledged at the truly Universal level.

But how do we now make these ambitious goals the reality? 

First, all the stakeholders have to act together, and the Paris Agreement provides a solid basis for that. “The recognition of actions by businesses, investors, cities and regions is one of the key outcomes of COP 21”, said Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC

Second, as much as individual and local actions are important, the goals will not be achieved without large-scale solutions. There are millions of hectares of land that are in need of restoration to ensure climate resilience and peace and only automated solutions are able to perform this job quickly enough. 

Finally, when these grand scale innovative and high-tech solutions are enacted, we must not forget about indigenous knowledge and wisdom manifesting itself in low-cost and simple interventions.   “Everyone in this room knows that planting trees in farmland improves productivity”, Laura Tuck, World Bank Vice president for Sustainable Development, addressed the Global Landscapes Forum. Sometimes interventions like that can significantly improve communities’ resilience and prosperity and we are glad that the global leaders are encouraging to look at simple solutions as much as to innovate. 

While the Paris Agreement is not perfect, it has exceeded our expectations in bringing the world together, and we are excited to continue being a part of this process. 

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