- The governments of Norway and the United States on Wednesday pledged to strengthen efforts to protect and restore tropical forests.
- The agreement was signed at the Norwegian government's Oslo REDD Exchange
- The agreement called for cooperation on a number of points, including both positive incentives for forest conservation, like mobilizing private sector investment for forest conservation, and punitive approaches like tougher law enforcement.
The governments of Norway and the United States on Wednesday pledged to strengthen efforts to protect and restore tropical forests, including cracking down on the illegal timber trade, supporting technologies to advance forest monitoring, promoting deforestation-free commodity sourcing, and mobilizing finance for conservation.
The agreement, which was signed by American Secretary of State John Kerry and Norwegian minister of climate and environment Vidar Helgesen, was inked at the Norwegian government’s Oslo REDD Exchange, an event that brought together more than 500 people from 47 countries to discuss forest conservation.
At the signing, Kerry and Helgensen highlighted the importance tropical forests play in helping mitigate climate change.
“Reducing deforestation and doing more to preserve our forests would enable us to achieve a full third of global mitigation goals by 2030,” said Kerry. “Trees, as you all know, are nature’s own carbon capture and storage mechanism. And this is to say nothing of the extensive benefits of forest protection related to biodiversity, air quality, water quality, homeland for indigenous people, and more. So it is not acceptable that the world today is losing nearly 50 football fields’ worth of forest every minute.”
“Our mandate is clear: We have to change course and we have to inspire that change in every corner of the globe.”
Helgensen said there could be no climate solution without addressing deforestation and lamented that if forests were a human innovation, they would be lauded as a great technological innovation and funded as such. He added that while recent progress has been made on issues like forest monitoring, collaborative partnerships, and the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights, there’s much still left to do if forests are to be preserved.
“We need to once again get out of our comfort zone and engage more players, more intensely,” he said. “We have every reason to be proud, but no reason to be satisfied until we have achieved far more.”
The agreement called for cooperation on a number of points, including both positive incentives for forest conservation, like mobilizing private sector investment for forest conservation, and punitive approaches like tougher law enforcement. The two countries also resolved to hold an annual bilateral meeting on forests to push progress on the commitments.
On the finance front, the agreement specifically called out a proposal by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to allow carbon credits generated from forest conservation to “enable carbon neutral growth in international aviation from 2020” — in other words, offset the expected increase in carbon emissions from air travel post-2020. According to Michael Wolosin of Forest Climate Analytics, that initiative could drive tens of billions of dollars into forest conservation projects over the next 20 years if it moves forward.
The agreement also called for increased collaboration between governments and the private sector on reducing deforestation, including linking so-called jurisdictional programs that operate at state and municipality levels to private sector zero deforestation commitments. It pointed to the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a partnership between governments and a number of private sector companies to cut deforestation from commodity supply chains, as an example of the kind of initiatives needed to safeguard forests at scale.
The statement acknowledged the need to “strengthen our respective efforts to fight illegal logging and associated trade.” It called for better enforcement of anti-timber trafficking laws like the Lacey Act and more international cooperation on transparency in the timber sector.
Those last points won praise from Charles Barber of the World Resources Institute, which leads the Forest Legality Alliance, an effort to combat illicit logging.
“The U.S.-Norway Joint Statement sends a powerful message about the importance of combating the scourge of illegal logging, which threatens the intended outcomes of the Paris Climate agreement in key tropical forest countries,” Barber said. “As attention turns from the global agreement to making progress on the ground, political will and tangible action to eradicate trade in stolen timber is becoming an important litmus test for who is serious about implementing Paris and who is not. The United States and Norway should take these factors into account in prioritizing their climate change cooperation strategies and priorities.”
While both countries have been supportive of efforts to conserve forests in recent years, Norway has become widely recognized as a global leader on the issue among wealthy nations, ploughing more than 2.5 billion dollars into tropical forest conservation commitments since 2007. These performance-based bilateral agreements reward countries like Brazil, Indonesia, and Peru for reducing rates of forest loss and degradation. High forest cover countries like Guyana and Congo Basin nations are receiving support to develop systems to keep deforestation rates low.
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