As co-chair of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which brings together 74 governments and thousands of civil society organizations, WRI worked with members to advance climate action and sustainable development. National, regional and local governments have made public commitments to advance climate action and sustainable development through citizen engagement, open data and fiscal transparency.
Failure to provide access to information on public spending and opportunities to engage in decision-making make it nearly impossible for the public to hold governments to account for progress on national climate goals or for effective use of government revenue from resources such as timber, mining and oil. Many governments are either unwilling to reform or lack the know-how to do so, undermining progress on the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Co-chairing the Open Government Partnership with France in 2016-17, WRI helped to design an OGP declaration with collective actions on climate and natural resources that helped frame national commitments, and provided technical assistance and circulated guidance to countries to develop them. WRI’s climate, forests and governance experts brought together civil society organizations to work closely with national governments, particularly in Latin America, to shape commitments to enhance transparency, participation and accountability on climate action and natural resources. WRI and its partners worked closely with Argentina and Costa Rica on their climate commitments and with Colombia, Liberia and Panama on natural resource commitments.
WRI also helped pilot a subnational program in OGP to mobilize regional and local governments to develop and implement open government commitments. WRI teams in Brazil and Mexico partnered with NGOs and officials to create such commitments.
In 2016 and 2017, 13 governments committed through the above mechanisms to improve access to climate data, engage citizens in climate policymaking and transparently track climate finance; 12 governments made open government commitments on natural resources, including on land, forests and water.
Argentina, for example, committed to provide greenhouse gas inventories and maps of climate impacts on a public website, enabling citizens to participate in developing more effective, equitable climate policies and to hold officials accountable for meeting their climate commitments. On natural resources, Liberia pledged to place land records, contracts, community and customary land tenure data, and relevant laws and policies in the public domain, helping to prevent the abuse of power for private gain.
At the subnational level, the Brazilian cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and eight governments in Mexico announced reforms to deepen access to budget information and increase public consultation. After a successful pilot of its subnational program, OGP now plans to double its membership from 15 to 30.
By identifying opportunities for landscape restoration, the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology that WRI helped to create informed decision-making in Brazil and Indonesia that led to new policies to advance large-scale restoration, offering the potential to foster prosperity and social inclusion while benefiting biodiversity and keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Brazil and Indonesia, two of the world’s largest tropical forest countries, have seen historically high deforestation rates since 2000 due to increasing pressure from development, agricultural expansion and illegal logging. Restoring degraded and deforested land in both countries could create economic opportunities and benefits for local communities and support the governments’ climate and development goals. Until recently, however, concerns about the cost of restoration hampered progress.
The Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM), developed by WRI and IUCN in 2014, identifies opportunities for landscape restoration. In Brazil, WRI used ROAM diagnostic tools to support the development of the national restoration plan and helped to identify potential areas for natural regeneration. In Indonesia, WRI worked with the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF), the South Sumatran government, the Provincial Watershed Forum and local restoration coalitions to apply ROAM in South Sumatra. ROAM showed a significant opportunity for natural forest regeneration and agroforestry and contributed to the development of a South Sumatra Green Growth Plan. In both countries, WRI worked with partners to identify cost-effective and scalable interventions to realize the restoration potential.
Brazil announced its National Policy on Recovery of Native Vegetation (PROVEG) in January 2017. This policy – the most ambitious of its kind in the world – creates and integrates policies, programs, financing, monitoring and other actions to spur native vegetation recovery to contribute to Brazil’s objective of restoring 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of degraded land by 2030, an area about the size of Iceland. These efforts will also support Brazil's commitments to the WRI-led Initiative 20x20, a regional initiative in Latin America to support the Bonn Challenge for global land restoration. In Indonesia, in May 2017, the Government of South Sumatra formalized the South Sumatra Green Growth Plan for economic growth driven by renewable resources, which aims to restore 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) of degraded land by 2030.
If these ambitions are met, landscape restoration in Brazil and South Sumatra could keep hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and contribute to achieving emissions reductions targets of both countries as set in the Paris Agreement. Achieving these goals would also benefit biodiversity, reduce poverty, increase social inclusion and improve local economies.
Working with policymakers, scientists and environmental groups, WRI’s Forest Legality Initiative made the case for protecting rosewood, one of the world’s most valuable timbers. More than 250 species of rosewood earned legal protections under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in late 2016, a move that can safeguard forests and curb the illegal timber trade.
Rosewood is among the world’s most valuable timbers, used primarily for high-end furniture and musical instruments. It is also one of the most illegally harvested woods. Between 2005 and 2014, rosewood accounted for 35 percent of the value of all wildlife seizures, earning it the nickname “ivory of the forest.” This rampant trade fuels violence and corruption, degrades pristine forests and deprives local communities of a vital resource. While a few species of rosewood have been protected under CITES over the past 25 years, powerful economic interests had stymied more systematic international rosewood protection.
Starting in 2015, WRI’s Forest Legality Initiative helped convene and collaborated with a coalition of research groups, environmental organizations, leading scientific institutions and signatories to CITES, an international agreement that protects threatened flora and fauna.
In 2016, WRI commissioned a major review of rosewood species in global trade, providing a stronger scientific rationale for CITES protection. WRI also worked with Malagasy experts and the World Bank to produce the first comprehensive country-level assessment of existing knowledge and scientific capacities concerning rosewood species in Madagascar, one of the countries hardest hit by rosewood trafficking. Both studies were referenced during in 2016 CITES’ 17th Conference of the Parties, informing delegations about the scope of the problem globally and providing a national-level analysis of rosewood conservation capacity. WRI also hosted an international conference on the case for listing rosewood under CITES, convening NGOs, rosewood experts and many source countries shortly before the CITES conference.
In October 2016, parties to CITES voted to protect the entire Dalbergia genus of rosewood – encompassing more than 250 species – and four other highly threatened rosewood species. Protections became legally binding worldwide in January 2017. Countries must now conduct scientific sustainability assessments before harvesting any rosewood for export, and rosewood imports must have a valid CITES export permit from the country of origin. These legal protections aim to help curb the rosewood trade and protect forests.
WRI will continue to support implementation of the CITES rosewood listings and other efforts to combat rosewood trafficking, including through diplomatic engagement, research on technologies to identify rosewood species and capacity-building efforts.
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