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As part of its initiative on Tropical Forests for Climate and Development, the Center for Global Development is producing a book entitled Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics, and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change. Co-authored by senior fellow Frances Seymour and research fellow Jonah Busch, the book will make the case that tropical forests are essential for both climate stability and sustainable development, that now is the time for action on tropical forests, and that payment-for-performance finance for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) represents a course of action with great potential for success.
Why Forests? Why Now? will draw on original research, synthetic reviews, and national case studies supported by commissioned background papers and CGD’s own research. The content will cover the science, economics, and politics of forest conservation and finance to underscore the urgency, affordability, and feasibility of scaling up funding for reducing deforestation, particularly through performance-based approaches.
The Science – deforestation as a source of climate emissions, development benefits provided by intact forests, and advances in forest monitoring technologies;
The Economics – the affordability of mitigating forest-based emissions compared to other options, contributions of forests to developing economies, and what is known about what drives deforestation and how to stop it.
The Politics – the politics of international cooperation to reduce tropical deforestation, with a particular focus on constituencies for performance-based finance in relevant policy arenas at the international level, within selected rich countries, and within forest countries.
The publication of Why Forests? Why Now? is set for December 2016. This research supports the activities of a CGD Working Group to identify practical ways to accelerate performance-based finance for tropical forests.
Click here for a list of all papers in the series.
In the short run, the uncertainty about future national policy may discourage private investment in renewable energy and other low carbon technologies. At the same time, the freedom to forge its own climate policy and to step out ahead of the EU may open opportunities for more ambitious action and creative intellectual leadership in UK support to developing countries.
A showpiece “clean coal” project in Kemper Country, Mississippi is three years behind schedule, four billion dollars over budget, faces swirling allegations of contracting scandals and shoddy construction, and has yet to capture or store any carbon. Safe, cheap, natural carbon-capture-and-storage (CCS) is already available at large-scale—in the form of forests.
With the election of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (known as PPK) as its new President, Peru is poised to be a major leader in combatting climate change and, in particular, the global effort to preserve tropical forests.
This Earth Day, more than sixty heads of state will gather in New York to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. The agreement declared in December the unanimous aim of 196 governments to work toward the near-elimination of greenhouse gas emissions by the second half of this century. Although the New York ceremony represents another high-profile sign of political support for stabilizing Earth’s climate, significant challenges remain.
Forests provide most of the world’s land-based carbon storage, and forest loss is the second-leading cause of climate change, after burning fossil fuels.
“I think most people gathered in New York this week don’t appreciate how important forests are to achieving the goals of the Paris agreement,” said Frances Seymour, a forest and climate policy expert with the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. Clearing forests is “like throwing a hand grenade into the only proven method we have for removing carbon from the atmosphere,” she said.
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Another tool that has long been used for visualizing forest data is Global Forest Watch. Founded in 1997, the goal of the platform, said Harris, is to demystify the data and put it into a format that decisionmakers can use. Last week, the platform announced the new GLAD (Global Land Analysis and Discovery) alert system, which detects tree cover loss in Peru, the Republic of Congo and Indonesian Borneo in less than one week.
"Global Forest Watch has made the data available to anyone with a laptop and Internet connection," said Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Center for Global Development.
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There was a long list of issues on the Norwegians’ agenda at each Jakarta meeting, but one of the thorniest concerned reform of Indonesia’s chaotic system of land use management. Because different government ministries and agencies have each developed their own land use maps, the country is littered with examples of overlapping permits for different activities.
Adding to the confusion, provincial and district governments gained more control over land use after the end of Suharto’s rule, and they sometimes issued permits that were in conflict with what Jakarta had approved. “That mess has helped to allow deforestation,” said Frances Seymour, a US forestry policy expert who in 2006-2012 ran the Center for International Forestry Research, which has its headquarters in Indonesia.
One obvious solution to the tree loss problem, for example, is for plantation companies to use land that has already been cleared. But Ms Seymour said companies often explain they prefer uncleared forest because they can be more certain no one else has a prior claim to the land.
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A satellite-based alert system could prove a potent weapon in the fight against deforestation. As few as eight hours after it detects that trees are being cut down, the system will send out e-mails warning that an area is endangered. That rapid response could enable environmental managers to catch illegal loggers before they damage large swathes of forest.
[T]he Landsat-based alerts represent a significant step forward for the fight against deforestation, says Frances Seymour, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a think tank in Washington DC. “In the context of law enforcement, timeliness is everything,” she says. “A couple weeks later, not only is the forest gone, but so is the equipment and all the evidence you might be able to use for a successful prosecution.”
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