Potential for Enhancing Carbon Uptake by Forests and Soils

Friday, February 17, 2017: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Room 313 (Hynes Convention Center)
Frances Seymour, Center for Global Development, Washington, DC
The goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius cannot be met without a reversal of current rates of tropical deforestation. If emissions from tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third after China and the United States. Because growing forests actively sequester carbon – a safe, natural, and proven carbon capture and storage technology – they are also critical to meeting the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal of balancing emissions and removals by mid-century. Stopping deforestation and allowing damaged forests to grow back could reduce annual global emissions by as much as 24 to 30 percent. Further, a growing body of evidence demonstrates the significant direct and indirect contributions standing forests make toward achieving sustainable development goals related to hunger, poverty, energy, water, health, and safety from disasters. Forests provide ecosystem services that support agricultural productivity from local to continental scales, fill reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams, and attenuate the impacts of severe weather events on vulnerable communities and infrastructure. Brazil has demonstrated that it is possible to reduce deforestation through a mix of policy tools aided by advances in satellite-based forest monitoring. Because a leading driver of forest loss is commercial-scale clearing to produce globally traded commodities such as beef, soy, and palm oil, corporate commitments to get deforestation out of supply chains, coupled with “demand side” policies on the part of consumer countries, can be part of the solution. A promising approach to emissions mitigation endorsed by the Paris Agreement is for rich countries to provide performance-based payments to developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD+. Finance of REDD+ is one of the lowest-cost emission reduction options available, is politically acceptable to developing countries as a transaction between equal parties, and can be aligned with other sustainable development objectives including biodiversity conservation and improved governance.