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The Indispensable Role of Climate Finance in Meeting Global Climate Targets

Updated: Sep 2, 2023

By: Greg Benjamin and Yobie Benjamin

Forests, as vital carbon dioxide absorbers, significantly contribute to climate change mitigation efforts. The vast carbon storage in these ecosystems surpasses that of any other terrestrial habitat. Yet, the release of this stored carbon through deforestation and forest degradation exacerbates global warming. As such, mitigating these activities becomes crucial for effectively managing climate change.

Adopting sustainable forest management practices, such as discouraging clear-cutting and encouraging afforestation, can reduce deforestation and degradation. Additionally, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) who possess intimate knowledge of forest ecosystems and an inherent interest in their preservation can be invaluable allies in sustainable forest management initiatives.

Successful projects like the REDD+ program in Brazil, which incentivizes landowners for preserving forests, and Venezuela's Yanomami Sustainable Development Project that safeguards extensive forest networks in the Yanomami indigenous peoples' traditional lands, exemplify the potential of such alliances.

Moreover, forests offer benefits beyond carbon sequestration; they regulate the water cycle to mitigate flood and drought risk, house diverse species to maintain biodiversity, and provide recreational opportunities, thereby enhancing human health and well-being.

Despite these benefits, REDD+ initiatives and voluntary carbon markets that channel crucial climate finance often face undeserved criticism, largely due to biased media narratives.

Media coverage often negatively portrays REDD+ credits, notably those from the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM), overlooking the benefits these projects bring to IPLCs. The Cordillera Azul National Park project in Peru and the Makira Natural Park project in Madagascar, for instance, are REDD+ initiatives that have significantly improved living conditions, healthcare, and education in local communities.

Around 11% of global carbon emissions stem from forest degradation and deforestation. Protected lands, particularly those encompassing indigenous territories, store carbon amounts equivalent to a year's worth of global fossil fuel emissions. Regions such as the Brazilian Amazon and the tropical forests of the Congo Basin underscore the crucial role forests play in tackling climate change.

While IPLCs worldwide are vital for forest protection, they receive less than 1% of climate mitigation finance. REDD+ credits, facilitated via jurisdictional programs and the VCM, provide a financial lifeline for these communities. Successful initiatives include the Suruí Forest Carbon Project in Brazil and the Mai Ndombe REDD+ Project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both of which bolster indigenous lands and sustainable livelihoods.

Corporations such as Microsoft, Qantas, and Allianz have taken strides in recognizing the importance of REDD+ projects and actively purchase high-quality REDD+ credits. Microsoft, for example, invested in the Suruí Forest Carbon Project in Brazil.

While some REDD+ initiatives have shortcomings, it's essential to highlight the successful ones that balance carbon sequestration with community benefits. Adhering to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) guidelines, involving IPLCs as equal partners from project inception, and ensuring transparent benefit-sharing after community consultations have proven effective. The media should strive to offer balanced coverage by showcasing successful initiatives like the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project in Kenya and the Alto Mayo Protected Forest project in Peru, which have made significant strides in reducing carbon emissions and enhancing local livelihoods.

Dedicated REDD+ project developers prioritize best practices and safeguards, with a particular focus on IPLC leadership and wisdom. They collaborate with IPLC partners to monitor and develop high-integrity carbon projects and jurisdictional-level funding.

As we pursue global climate goals, mechanisms like REDD+ and voluntary carbon markets are vital for directing climate finance to grassroots communities. Prioritizing high-integrity projects that respect and draw upon indigenous rights and wisdom is crucial for tackling climate change, conserving forests, and supporting communities. Let's unite to ensure that climate finance continues to act as a catalyst for positive change and forest conservation.



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