IUCN joined the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE), and the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) to discuss ecosystems and climate change at COP22 in Marrakech.
Forests take centre stage in climate efforts because of their ability to help us mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is particularly relevant in India, where forests act as major carbon sinks, offsetting approximately 12% of India’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Simultaneously, these forests shelter endangered flora and fauna and directly support the livelihoods of communities living in and around protected areas.
In recent years, India has focussed on protecting these landscapes, including a commitment to the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land under restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030. At COP21 in Paris, India pledged to restore 13 million hectares by 2020 and an additional 8 million by 2030.
At the event, Ecosystems and Climate Change, Stewart Maginnis, IUCN’s Global Director of Nature-based Solutions, spoke about the need for India to design multi-functional systems that address the breadth of issues related to climate change in the forest and land-use sectors. He highlighted the role of forest landscape restoration (FLR) as a solution to the impact climate change will have on water security, livelihoods and development. Citing estimates that land degradation costs India 2% of its GDP, Maginnis reminded participants that small landowners were critical to the success of FLR.
A key topic of the discussion was the role of donor agencies in creating meaningful impacts. Representing both Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and ICIMOD, Chief Technical Advisor Kai Windhorst spoke about the 28 International Climate Initiative (IKI) projects in India that focus on REDD+ to conserve natural carbon sinks and the development of adaptation methods. He stressed the importance of the landscape approach, highlighting that ICIMOD was looking at the trans-boundary areas of India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.
A representative of the Government of Bihar spoke about how agroforestry is being adopted as an adaptation measure by farmers who have been impacted by declining rainfall and provided examples of ongoing efforts in his state. Both the Green India Mission and the country’s nationally determined contributions (NDC) have adopted similar approaches of utilising forest conservation for the benefit of communities.
Assistant Director-General of ICFRE Biodiversity and Climate Change, Dr. T.P. Singh, wrapped up the session by charting a way forward for REDD+ initiatives in India. He said it was essential to create strong safeguards, conduct capacity-building workshops for stakeholders, identify reference levels and explore financing opportunities from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) for such projects.
A related session, Afforestation and REDD+ in India, was also instrumental in initiating dialogue between key partners on the way forward for REDD+ in the Himalaya region. Dr. Shashi Kumar, Director General, ICFRE, pointed out that addressing poverty is a priority for India, and that in recent years the country has looked to its forests, which cover 25% of its geographical area, to meet its sustainable development and climate goals. India’s NDC states that it will increase forest cover as a strategy to sequester carbon and the Green India Mission is one example of how it plans to operationalise this goal.
Bringing the conversation to trans-boundary initiatives. Mr. Kai Windhorst discussed ongoing REDD+ measures between four countries in the Himalayan region. He explained that a Safeguard Information System (SIS) had been developed for the region and that the thrust of the project was on creating a common vision for REDD+ in the region. A long-term goal of the initiative was to build a Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) platform in the Himalaya to share guidelines, standard operating procedures and other relevant data.
IUCN’s Dr. Chetan Kumar, Landscape Restoration Science Manager, spoke about the potential for FLR to enhance India's carbon stocks and how it fits in the REDD+ agenda. He provided global examples and emphasised the opportunity for India to use FLR as a means of achieving its NDC.
The importance of forests to livelihoods was emphasised by ICFRE’s Deputy Director General of Research, Dr. G.S. Goraya, who spoke about the more than 6,000 plant species that are used for health care in India. The trade value of these species is approximately US$ 1,000 million, and several of them are endangered. He highlighted the need to focus on in situ conservation reserves for priority species and capacity-building for local communities that traditionally harvested these plants.
IUCN continues to be closely involved with the Bonn Challenge and at the forefront of implementing REDD+ projects in several countries. Learn more about India’s and a host of other countries’ commitments to FLR with the upcoming launch of IUCN’s new website, InfoFLR.org, scheduled for release on 14 November at COP22.