Deforestation accounts for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is also strongly linked to development issues, as healthy forests are vital in the fight against poverty. Forest and landscape restoration initiatives offer significant benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation, and are also an efficient means of generating income for local communities, improving rural livelihoods and preserving cultural traditions. They provide solutions to balancing conflicting land use interests in forest areas and can reconcile environmental concerns with economic development.
To highlight this, IUCN teamed up with UNESCO and Fairventures Worldwide to organise a session at the European Development Days on 3-4 June in Brussels entitled “Nature-based Solutions for Climate Change Mitigation: From Deforestation to Forest Restoration”. In the session, moderated by the Director of IUCN’s European Regional Office Luc Bas, speakers presented best practices in forest restoration and highlighted the benefits of nature-based solutions for sustainable development.
Wolfgang Baum, manager of Fairventures’ 1mTrees programme, which aims to establish an economically and environmentally sustainable land use practice on the island of Borneo, noted that governments generally have little interest in conservation for conservation’s sake, and that the economic value of forest restoration projects must therefore be made apparent. 1mTrees provides farmers with a way to secure an income by revitalising degraded land with trees and thereby boosting the resilience of their habitat against natural disasters.
Thomas Hirsch, general manager of Pacific Ring Europe, a timber company relying on low-density and fast-growing Albasia Falcata trees, outlined how large agroforestry projects could be made responsible, profitable and sustainable by engaging with local farmers and by creating a demand for lighter wood where customers are traditionally used to resource-heavy timber. He demonstrated ways in which the economic model of his company was contributing to the development of tree farms in Indonesia while helping to take pressure off the virgin forest reserves.
The Chief of UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s Africa Unit, Edmond Moukala N’Gouemo, stressed the fact that cultural traditions are inherently linked to natural habitats. With global deforestation progressing at an unprecedented rate, he warned that we are also putting our valuable cultural heritage at risk, reaffirming that the protection of our ecosystems must be of the highest priority.
Cristiana Pasca Palmer, Head of Unit on climate change at the European Commission’s DG DEVCO, provided a snapshot of actions taken by the EU on the issue of deforestation. Moreover, she once again stressed the inseparable link between ecosystem protection and poverty reduction as a pillar for the EU programme for development.
Finally, Patrick Wylie, Senior Forest Policy Officer for the IUCN Global Forest and Climate Change Programme, highlighted the need for action on climate change at the domestic level. He underlined that although global aspirations such as the Bonn Challenge – aiming to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested lands by 2020 – are important, local action is key to meeting these targets.
Protecting the ecosystems on which we depend relies not only on good governance but also on concrete action at the local level. However, it is also crucial that nature be recognised by the international community for its intrinsic value as our life-support system and as the medium for our cultural expressions. Finding ways to protect our remaining forests and to restore those that have already been lost will define the success of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.
As Patrick Wylie concluded, “perhaps the best way to protect the 25% of forests that remain is to make better use of the 75% that are already gone.”