World Forestry Congress – Worlds of Possibilities for Africa

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Gerhard Dieterle (Adviser, Forests and Landscapes Climate Finance, World Bank)

This week nearly 2000 representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, and academia are gathered in Durban, South Africa for the 14th World Forestry Congress (WFC).  It’s a unique moment as this is the first time an African country has hosted the WFC – very fitting, given how much Africa could benefit from the increased resilience, reduced vulnerability, job creation, and economic benefits that forests bring.

Forests and trees have a particularly important role to play in low-income countries where they contribute an average of 7% to GDP compared to 1% in middle-income and 0.2% high-income countries.  In fact, the 7% figure is an underestimation given much of the forests sector is informal.

Forests and trees also provide vital ecological services, such as soil retention, pollination, and water and climate regulation, which are essential to sustain key economic sectors (such as agriculture and hydropower). They provide people with drinking water, contribute to climate change mitigation, and enhance the resilience of ecosystems.

The Climate Investment Funds’ Forest Investment Program (FIP) is a unique program that invests in forests and people – the theme of this year’s WFC.  Recognizing the fact that deforestation and forest degradation are rooted in a complex geometry of underlying development issues and poverty, the $785 million FIP supports developing countries’ efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, implement sustainable forest management, and enhance forest carbon stocks (REDD+).

The FIP has expanded to 23 countries and is now the world’s largest source of REDD+ Phase 2 funding, which incentivizes readiness and progress to results based payments.  Channeled through multilateral development banks as grants and near-zero interest credits, the FIP is country-led and builds on national policies and the activities of existing adaptation and mitigation initiatives. Unique to the FIP is the $80 million Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, the largest global REDD+ initiative created solely for and by indigenous peoples and local communities.

The FIP utilizes a programmatic approach by which investments are based on an Investment Plan covering investments inside forests, drivers of deforestation, and forest degradation outside forests as well as general capacity building. The FIP is designed to leverage funding from other sources such as bilateral funds, the private sector, and hopefully also the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The FIP fills an important gap within the broader REDD+ framework. Experience with ongoing REDD+ programs shows that FIP funds are important to complete REDD+ “readiness” reform activities, particularly in countries with limited resources and capacities. Such activities are important for paving the way to successful performance payments for carbon from other funds.  For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the FIP complements the other financing mechanisms supporting DRC’s national REDD+ readiness process.  FIP financed activities draw and build upon efforts being made by UN-REDD, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and DRC’s own Ministry of Environment.

The WFC is taking place in the same month as the UN’s Sustainable Development Summit and two months before the Climate Change Conference in Paris – two events which will help chart a course towards a future of sustainable development and a more stable climate.  The exchanges and outcomes of the WFC will provide important input into these processes. With a combination of international mandate and local action, the FIP hopes to add its perspective to these debates and ensure forests contribute to sustainable economic development and are part of the climate solution.  Africa is well-positioned to contribute in both of these areas – and benefit from them too.

Blogpost by Gerhard Dieterle (Adviser, Forests and Landscapes Climate Finance, World Bank)

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