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Frances Seymour was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development based in Washington, DC, where she lead policy research on tropical forests and climate change. In December 2016, CGD published her book, Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change (co-authored by Jonah Busch), to promote the importance of forests to climate and development objectives, and the potential of results-based finance. Ms. Seymour also served as Senior Adviser to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, with a focus on halting deforestation and peatland conversion due to expansion of oil palm cultivation in Indonesia.
From 2006 to 2012, Ms. Seymour served as Director General of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), an international organization headquartered in Indonesia, and was awarded France’s Order of Agricultural Merit for her service there. Previously, she was the founding director of the Institutions and Governance Program at World Resources Institute, and served as Director of Development Assistance Policy at World Wildlife Fund. Early in her career, she spent five years as a Program Officer with the Ford Foundation in Indonesia.
She holds an MPA in Development Studies from Princeton University, and a BS in Zoology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
One of my favorite movies is Casablanca. As I arrange my travel to Morocco for the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) to UN climate convention next month in Marrakech, the lyrics to the song that meant so much to Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and were so memorably sung by Sam (Dooley Wilson) have been running through my head.
Climate change threatens the world’s poorest people most. They are least protected from climate-related disasters by savings or insurance, least able to access modern health care when diseases spread, and least able to move to safer locations when storms rage. Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both.
On June 15 in Oslo, US Secretary of State John Kerry signed a Joint Statement on Deeper Collaboration on Forests and Climate Change with Norway. While we might wish that bolder action from the US government were possible sooner, this moment in the spotlight to move forests higher up on the US government’s agenda is a good first step.
Last week marked the transition from commitments to compliance for a number of companies that have pledged to get deforestation out of their supply chains. Wilmar International, the world’s largest trader of palm oil, set a December 31, 2015 deadline for suppliers to adhere to its path-breaking “No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation” policy. December 31st was also Jim Bob Moffett’s last day at work as the chairman of Freeport-McMoRan, the company that developed one of the world’s largest copper and gold mines in eastern Indonesia. The coincidence of these milestones leads me to reflect on the changing norms of corporate leadership, and my brief interaction with Mr. Moffett 20 years ago.
The results of Sunday’s runoff election in Brazil open a new chapter in the country’s fight against deforestation. Dilma Rousseff will have to overcome skepticism that she’s the right woman for the job, in light of perceptions that she privileged development at the expense of conservation during her first term as president.
Climate change is a threat not only to prosperity in the United States but also to national security, foreign policy, and development objectives throughout the world. Hurricane Sandy served as a reminder of the destruction to life and property from extreme weather events, which are likely to become more frequent and severe. Likewise, extended drought in the Southwest illustrates how climate change could affect agriculture, energy, recreation, and other major sectors of the US economy. The implications of climate change for the development prospects of poor countries are even worse. Lacking infrastructure, financial assets, insurance mechanisms, or strong institutions to cushion the impacts, developing societies remain highly vulnerable to natural disasters, including those resulting from increasingly irregular climatic conditions. The poorest households are most vulnerable — their houses often perch on steep, landslide-prone hillsides around cities or in coastal floodplains, and smallholder farmers lack irrigation and depend on increasingly erratic seasonal rains.