The world is not on track to achieve forest goals of ending and reversing deforestation by 2030, critical for a credible pathway to the 1.5°C Paris Agreement goal, according to a new report by the UN-REDD Programme, UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the Green Gigaton Challenge (GGC). It finds that for the 2030 goals to remain within reach, a one gigaton milestone of emissions reductions from forests must be achieved not later than 2025, and yearly after that.
The report, Making good on the Glasgow Climate Pact: a call to action to achieve one gigaton of emissions reductions from forests by 2025, finds that current public and private commitments to pay for emissions reductions are only at 24% of the gigaton milestone goal. Only around half of these commitments have been realized through signed emissions reduction purchase agreements and none of the funding for these commitments has yet been disbursed.
“There is no Paris Agreement and no SDGs without forests. As UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report reminded us once again, the window is closing and we urgently need to scale up action and finance for forest-based mitigation to achieve the 2025 one gigaton milestone and avert catastrophic climate change. If we succeed, and the new Forest and Climate Leaders Partnership is a promising sign of ambition, then vital targets for climate and nature remain within reach,” said Susan Gardner, Director, Ecosystems Division, UNEP on behalf of the GGC.
The report outlines that an unmistakable signal in the form of a carbon price of USD 30-50 per ton of CO2e for forest emissions reductions is needed to provide the incentives, means and predictability required for countries to invest in the protection of their forests. Such a price would combine a donor-funded floor price with private sector demand for high-integrity emission reductions above that price.
“Currently, finance for forests does not reflect the urgency or the scale of the problems we are facing. Upfront investment in REDD+ readiness and implementation must continue and be scaled up to ensure capacity and action to achieve emissions reductions results, with effective measurement, verification and reporting systems and safeguards in place” said Andre Guimaraes, Executive Director, Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM).
Integrity is key to ensuring the real, robust emissions reductions needed to achieve the gigaton milestone. The report also reviews the potential contribution of the voluntary carbon market in scaling up emissions reductions from forests, which becomes more important as growth of the market accelerates, having quadrupled in value between 2020 and 2021. Its success will depend on alignment with United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change decisions on REDD+, as well as having robust quantification mechanisms to deal with reversals and leakage, and strong adherence to safeguards.
“There is no progress without equity. Indigenous peoples and local communities are on the front line, leading the way with conservation and sustainable management of forests, but their lives are often at risk. Direct access to funding at sufficient volumes should be guaranteed for indigenous peoples and local communities as true partners, and with a focus on women”, said Lola Cabnal, Asociación Ak’Tenamit.
“We are running out of time to achieve the urgent milestone of achieving commitments for one gigaton of emissions reductions from forests by 2025. With serious action and incentives, we can get there, but progress also hinges on equity – fair and inclusive access to funding and capacity building. This will be crucial to achieving forest-centred emissions targets,” said Judith Walcott, Senior Safeguards Specialist at UNEP-WCMC and lead author of the new report.
The report also highlights how high-forest low-deforestation (HFLD) countries need more financial support. HFLD countries store 18% of tropical forest carbon worldwide. But current forest climate finance mechanisms are not adequate for rewarding their historical conservation and resisting increasing pressures to deforest. It is vital that their access to sufficient climate finance is rapidly improved.
For a 66% chance of limiting global warming to no more than 2°C, 15 gigatons of emissions per year by 2030 must be avoided or absorbed, above the commitments already made by countries. Forest-based solutions provide a crucial annual mitigation potential of around 4 gigatons by 2030. Actions to halt forest loss and degradation, coupled with sustainable forest management, conservation and restoration can deliver cost-effective climate mitigation for 27% of the solution to help avert climate catastrophe.