By Vishal Gulati
Bonn, Nov 12 (IANS) With forests equal to the size of New Zealand having disappeared last year, new action from countries and corporations to cut emissions from forest use and establish sustainable forestry management featured at the ongoing UN Climate Change negotiations here on Sunday.
Initiatives from South America’s Ecuador, Africa’s Gabon, Walmart and Mars Inc were welcomed by delegates at the Forests Global Climate Action day at the Climate Change Conference named COP23.
“These ecosystems are high on the agenda for Small Island Developing States because we are among the most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change,” said Fiji’s Economy and Climate Change Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, whose country holds this year’s presidency of the conference.
“While important progress has been made in protecting these ecosystems to enhance our resilience to a changing climate, we need all countries to make forest protection and rehabilitation and the financing of all forest ecosystems a priority. In particular, we need to create real incentives to attract both public and private finance to delivering nature-based solutions,” he said.
Two years after the world united around the Paris Agreement and a year after its entry into force, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) 197 parties have been reconvened for the 23rd annual climate change talks in Bonn till November 17.
The Bonn talks, which began on November 6, are expected to take a number of decisions necessary to bring the Paris Agreement to life, including meaningful progress on the agreement implementation guidelines, to achieve a goal to cut greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
The new actions to cut emissions from forest use included an Ecuadorean initiative to reduce 15 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in the forest sector, launched by Maria Victoria Chiriboga, Ecuador’s Under Secretary of Climate Change.
A commitment to deforestation-free commodities by Laura Phillips of Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability.
Mars Inc’s new policy to reduce their carbon footprint 27 per cent by 2025 and 67 per cent by 2050 by addressing deforestation throughout their corporate value chain was presented by Kevin Rabinovitch, Global Vice President of Sustainability.
Lee White, Director of Gabon’s National Park Service, described efforts to halt an illegal logging operation that will stop the emission of 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Sustaining and increasing forests is vital to get on track in time to meet the Paris Climate Change Agreement’s goal, which is to keep the average global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible.
The maths of climate science show that meeting this goal is impossible without nurturing forests, which from the atmosphere’s point of view are a massive sink of carbon, locked up in trees, plants and the soil, and a source of oxygen through photosynthesis.
But destructive, often illegal, logging and deforestation continues. Last year, forests equal to the size of New Zealand disappeared.
“Our planet’s forests are being decimated at an alarming rate. Putting a stop to this destruction is crucial to tackling climate change, reducing poverty and feeding a growing global population, in line with the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Inger Andersen.
“Nature-based solutions such as protecting and restoring forests can contribute over one-third of the total climate change mitigation required by 2030 to keep the temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. More decisive, collective action is now needed to seize this opportunity,” he added.
(Vishal Gulati is in Bonn at the invitation of the Global Editors Network to cover COP23. He can be contacted at email@example.com)