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Forests, Climate Change, and People

Trees and forests are an important part of the climate system. By absorbing and storing carbon, forests play a central role in mitigating climate change. Trees and forests also have a role in strengthening human resilience to climate change. For example, trees in agricultural areas can protect the soil and regulate water and microclimate conditions, helping to protect crops and livestock from climate variability.

Forests themselves are not immune to climate change. As temperatures, precipitation, and other variables shift, forest structures and functions will also change, with potentially significant impacts on communities with resource-based economies that rely on forest goods and products for their livelihoods. The forests’ ability to adapt to climate change and provide ecosystem services to all those who rely on them will depend on their health and resilience.

Today, however, many forests are being cleared rather than planted or maintained. The clearing and degradation of forests has a significant impact on the role forests can play in the climate system. When they are cut, the carbon they store is emitted, further stressing the climate system. In addition, forests and those who rely on them are then more vulnerable to climate change, creating a greater cycle of instability.

To address this challenge, Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are designing an initiative to recognize the policies and create positive incentives for countries willing to tackle deforestation and forest degradation, increase carbon stocks, and manage their forests more sustainably. The initiative (called REDD+) is focused on tropical forest countries. Since 2007, REDD+ has received a lot of attention, including the development of a number of multi-lateral and bi-lateral programs seeking to test how such an initiative might evolve.

Given the importance of local actors in managing forest land-related resources and the need to improve their participation in land use and forestry decisions that will impact them, GFI engages actively in REDD+ through the following:

The UNFCCC Negotiations

  • Since 2007, GFI has worked to ensure that REDD+ programs are designed to encourage activities that promote good governance, social equity, and environmental sustainability. We have looked at these questions through a number of lenses, including: how to create incentives for change; carbon accounting; developing national REDD+ safeguards systems, as well as the “safeguard information system” for reporting on how safeguards are promoted and supported; linking REDD+ to forest legality instruments; and proxies for recognizing policy changes that impact land use.

  • The GFI network has also held a number of joint events and participated in many others on REDD+. Whether discussing questions about monitoring different types of indicators, thinking about next steps for the negotiations or the REDD+ safeguards, we’ve sought to bring different perspectives to the table to solve key challenges in the negotiations.

Multilateral REDD+ programs

National REDD+ programs

  • In Brazil, Indonesia, and Cameroon, GFI supports the development of REDD+ programs and systems that will result in effective, equitable, and sustainable implementation of REDD+ actions.

  • The GFI network have submitted comments on REDD+ strategies, provided inputs into the development of REDD+ safeguard systems, and looked at questions related to the management of REDD+ finance.

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