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The United States, as a nation with a strong connection to its large land base, has been a supporter over many years of forest management and conservation. Because this long-held vision is shared across a broad spectrum of the US public, the United States has been a strong supporter of using foreign assistance to also help other countries protect their forests.
US views on forests as they relate to climate change, however, are more complex. The emergence and continued prioritization of forest protection and restoration in international climate negotiations has largely been welcomed by recent US administrations. However, two key routes available for increasing US funding for international forests – assistance and regulation – are both challenging. Increasing development assistance is a political challenge because of continuing concerns over the fiscal health of the US economy, and using such funds to pay other countries directly for forest emission reductions also faces operational challenges. Passing new legislation through Congress is unlikely for some years given Republican opposition to climate policies. These difficult “big-P” Political issues strongly determine the existence and amount of US investments in international forests, while the “small-p” politics of US constituencies including NGOs and the private sector shape that investment.
However, while challenging, political winds in the United States can change quickly and opportunities for international forest finance may present themselves in the coming years. A shift in the Republican party to more moderate views or efforts to move towards results-based foreign assistance more generally could benefit climate change-related assistance, as emissions are quantifiable metrics. Regulation under existing authority could have the potential flexibility to include international mitigation. Finally, businesses that have made public pledges to deforestation-free supply chains are keen to align policy approaches with such pledges, and could breathe new life into support for reducing emissions from forests.