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Though forests play an essential role in international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the development of systems to monitor deforestation and forest degradation has been slow. This is due to the demanding technical requirements and the large capacity gaps in many countries. Measuring and monitoring change on the ground and via satellite in a consistent way is no easy task.

Countries need to develop national measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) systems to monitor progress towards achieving REDD+ goals. Establishing procedures to do so would be a significant outcome of the UN climate negotiations in Durban. This task falls to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

With all its complex processes and acronyms, it’s easy to forget that the international climate change negotiations are supposed to lead to changes on the ground. There have been several developments this year, however, which should remind us of the urgency of the task and the importance of getting each piece of the puzzle right, including incentives for developing countries to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

Today, WRI releases a new map that identifies the hotspots where urban and suburban development are putting forests at risk in the southern United States. Areas experiencing the most forest loss to development between 2001 and 2006 (the most recent years for which data are available) were counties near Houston, Atlanta, Raleigh, and Charlotte. Counties around San Antonio, Jacksonville, and Birmingham round out the “top ten” (Table 1).

This piece originally appeared in The Solutions Journal

Can the current food production system feed a growing population in a changing climate while sustaining ecosystems? The answer is an emphatic “no.”

A new approach is imperative and overdue, one in which the world feeds more people—an estimated 9 billion by 2050—with less ecological impact. To be successful, this new approach must address both how we produce and how we use food.

The fate of heads of state across the globe is tied in large part to their ability to ensure employment, economic growth, and access to cheap food and clean water. Rising food prices have helped topple dictators across the Middle East. Europe, the United States, Japan and other major economies are spending trillions of dollars to restore growth and jobs.

Too often, efforts to address environmental challenges such as pollution, habitat loss and global warming are seen as in conflict with job creation, economic growth and development. Some have suggested that protecting forests will lead to scarcity of land for farming, exacerbating the rise in food prices.

While there are often trade offs, this is not always the case. Recent analysis by WRI’s team of experts, working with the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, has unveiled one of the greatest potential opportunities for combined economic and environmental gains.

With forests being converted at a rapid pace in the South, conservation easements are one of the most promising approaches to conserve and sustainably manage them. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement in which a landowner agrees to sell or donate the development rights to his or her land. In contrast to some traditional approaches to forest conservation, conservation easements can prevent forest loss while still allowing landowners to own their land. This has made conservation easements an increasingly popular land conservation tool in the United States. While the use of conservation easements continues to grow nationally, adoption lags behind in the South (Figure 1).

WRI’s new issue brief, “Gaining Ground: Increasing Conservation Easements in the U.S. South,” released today jointly with the American Forest Foundation, aims to increase the use of conservation easements in the South by helping landowners, conservation professionals, and conservation funders understand the unique benefits that conservation easements provide, key barriers to their implementation, and how to best address those barriers.

Gaining Ground

Increasing Conservation Easements in the U.S. South

This issue brief provides an overview of the current status of conservation easements in the U.S. South relative to the rest of the United States and how easement use can be increased.

This piece was written with Paula Swedeen of the Pacific Forest Trust

A new issue brief, released today by the World Resources Institute and the Pacific Forest Trust, looks at the economic opportunities for southern landowners created by emerging forest carbon offset markets. This new revenue stream can offer real rewards to landowners who steward their forests for climate benefits.

Original economic analysis done by the authors suggests that under current market conditions (offset prices in the $8-$12/metric ton CO2e range), income from carbon offsets may be sufficient in some instances to pay property taxes or the “incremental” costs of sustainable forest management certification. From a purely financial perspective, however, revenue from offsets in today’s still-developing market is not likely sufficient to outcompete real estate development in the region.

Forests for Carbon

Exploring Forest Carbon Offsets in the U.S. South

This issue brief explores forest carbon offsets in the context of the southern United States. It is intended as an introductory resource for southern
woodland owners, nongovernmental organizations active in
the region, offset project developers, and other forest carbon
offset...

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