Earlier this month, WRI launched its “Stories to Watch in 2014.”
All years are important, but decisions made in 2014 will have a striking impact for decades to come. Here are seven potential game-changers:
Two and a half millennia ago, Plato announced that “Human behavior flows from three things: desire, emotion, and knowledge.” Unfortunately, our human and corporate behavior on climate change is not even close to where it needs to be. But if the great philosopher was right (and he usually was), 2013 may have been a game changer.
The big news from 2013 came from gains in knowledge. New tools and research are opening our understanding much wider than before. But will we act on this? Knowledge can spur action, but this path is not guaranteed.
Negotiators during the 2013 COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland made big advances on a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), which helps countries preserve forests and climate-altering carbon stored inside. As the world moves toward establishing a new international climate action agreement in 2015, the progress on REDD+ deserves a closer look.
This week in Washington, D.C., members of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) met to advance strategies to restore degraded forest landscapes around the world. Such restoration has the potential to bring millions of hectares of land back to life—a move that could help protect watersheds, ensure food security, improve the livelihoods of rural communities, tackle climate change, and conserve biodiversity.
The World Bank endorsed Ghana’s Forest Investment Plan in November 2012, approving a $50 million package that can restore forests, improve the country’s water supply, and provide better quality-of-life for communities. An analysis by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS), WRI, and other partners was instrumental in making this breakthrough program come to fruition.
Most of the original forests in Ghana have been degraded or converted into agricultural lands. In order to avoid further deforestation, Ghana proposed a $50 million plan to the World Bank’s Climate Investment Funds. However, the World Bank declined to endorse the plan, arguing that it wouldn’t generate sufficient impact. The plan did not have any component for the restoration of forest and landscapes.
Meanwhile, IUCN, CERSGIS, and WRI had spent two years developing and applying a method to evaluate national forest and landscape restoration opportunities, supported by the World Bank Program on Forests (Profor) and the German International Climate Initiative. They found that Ghana had large-scale opportunities to capture carbon and improve quality-of-life through agroforestry, improved treatment of fallow land, and other measures.
The Government of Ghana and the World Bank incorporated the results of this restoration analysis into a revised plan. The addition of this evidence-based, well-argued restoration component persuaded the World Bank to green-light the Forest Investment Plan.
The $50 million investment will not only make Ghana a pioneer in restoring degraded lands to mitigate climate change, it can significantly improve the lives of the country’s rural populations. Restoring landscapes for agriculture, conservation, and other purposes can yield better harvests, improved water supplies, ecosystem services, jobs, and more.
WRI is currently working with IUCN and local partners as part of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, continuing its engagement in Ghana and conducting similar national assessments in Brazil and Rwanda. The aim is to meet the Bonn Challenge, an ambitious, international goal to initiate restoration on 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020.