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Biodiversity And Climate Conventions Find Common Ground In Sustainable Forest Management

Kelli Barrett

The World Bank and other funding agencies last year rallied around the emerging “landscapes approach” to conservation – an approach that uses carbon finance to leverage broader changes in land management. It’s an approach that could boost global biodiversity efforts, as delegates to Pyeongchang explained this week.

16 October 2014 | Heru Prasetyo seems to be everywhere these days. He was a fixture at last year’s Climate Change Conference in Warsaw, COP 19, where he provided what may have been the most eloquent advocacy on behalf of the emerging landscape approach to using carbon finance to Reduce greenhouse gas Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The landscapes approach recognizes the value that carbon brings to the table as a quantified environmental currency, but it emphasizes the fact than any effort to save forests must encompass all social, economic and environmental aspects of an ecosystem.

Specifically, he says, to save Indonesia’s forests the country must completely restructure its agriculture sector, and REDD finance should be targeted to activities that do just that. 

Earlier this week, he updated delegates to this year’s 12th Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on the role of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) in Indonesia’s REDD efforts – and the emerging link between SFM and biodiversity conservation. 

In fact a recent report by Flora and Fauna International highlights just how significant biodiversity is to saving forests. The paper provides a review of recent articles and shows how the loss of large animals both changes the composition of the trees in the forest and reduces the survival of existing trees, both of which lead to lower rates of carbon sequestration — further strengthening the case for using REDD funding to support biodiversity, with conservation as a by-product. 

The report’s findings is certainly related to COP 12 which runs through Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea and is designed to build momentum for achieving the CBD’s Aichi Targets, which are 20 biodiversity goals that 194 nations agreed on at COP 10. On the opening day of the COP, the CBD issued a progress and planning report that identified several key areas that need to be addressed between now and 2020. Side events at this year’s COP are organized around the report, and Prasetyo was speaking at a side event focused on one key objective: finance. Hosted by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the event aimed to explore the commonalities between the CBD and the UNFCCC. 

Mark Zimsky, Senior Biodiversity Specialist at GEF , pointed out that his agency promotes cross-pollination by supporting “multi-focal area projects” which have funneled $5 billion t to improve landscape level management. The funds are allocated from three separate streams of GEF funding corresponding with the three UN conventions – climate, biodiversity, and desertification. 

“We saw it as an opportunity to incentivize GEF eligible parties by weaving together these investment streams to hopefully achieve a 1+1=2 ½ or 3 in terms of cumulative benefits,” he said – adding that these benefits would only be achieved under the convening powers of the three sectors working together. 

“Sustainable forest management not only generates a number of global environmental benefits but also has positive impacts in terms of addressing local, social and economic challenges,” said Doley Tshering, the United Nation Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Technical Advisor in the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Team. 

The idea that SFM is all about sustainable forestry is an obvious win for biodiversity. Deforesting and other forms of degradation are clearly bad for an ecosystem’s wildlife. More importantly, however, biodiversity conservation goals are integrated into management plans. According to the UNDP SFM portfolio, six out of the 20 Aichi Targets are linked to SFM. 

“Cutting by half the rate of habitat loss, reducing deforestation while conserving in high value forests contributes to meeting the Aichi Targets,” Tshering says about the UNDP portfolio of projects. 

Several goals of a new multi-focal area project in Malaysia, Improving Connectivity in the Central Forest Spine (CFS), are aligned with the Aichi Targets. These include strategies involving land rehabilitation, which falls in line with habitat objectives of the CBD targets. The project also includes incentivizing biodiversity conservation through payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemes-a mechanism new to the country. 

The CFS is in its early days and implementation will be challenging. It’s easy to say but much harder to do, said Prasetyo, speaking specifically of a planned project in Indonesia that, like the CFS in Malaysia, aims to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem functions of a forested region while reducing carbon emissions. For Prasetyo, it also includes boosting economic growth. Titled, ‘Strengthening the Forest Area Planning Management in Kalimantan’, it intends to streamline biodiversity conservation into the forest carbon decision-making process. 

It’s a huge challenge especially when considering Indonesia’s complex land regulations but it’s something Prasetyo is confident can be done with the help of the evolved REDD mechanism that is transitioning to using the landscape approach. 

“The mechanism has moved beyond just carbon or forests,” he said. The social and economic element of the approach encompasses local and indigenous community stakeholders and opportunities for alternative livelihoods that will lead to more meaningful long-term solutions.

These elements combined with environmental considerations carry the potential to deliver much needed results from all three of the UN conventions.

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