Future of tropical forests: Time for a paradigm shift
July 11, 2018

Ten years after the introduction of REDD+, what is there to celebrate? What challenges remain? At the Oslo Tropical Forest Summit on 27-28 June 2018, key forest stakeholders explored these questions. The flurry of discussions left mixed views and a sense of déjà vu, but core truths emerged.

Forests are part of the climate equation, and although REDD+ failed to deliver on its promises to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, it was commended for bringing indigenous peoples’ rights to the fore, and for providing a framework to share climate responsibilities more fairly. Whether REDD+ will deliver over the next ten years remains to be seen, but better technology, more data and increasing financial rewards alone cannot save forests. We also need improved governance and stronger recognition of communities rights’ to their forests.

Participants agreed that businesses need to ramp up action towards deforestation-free supply chains. Far from being an obstacle to zero deforestation goals, businesses should lead the charge, working with governments to develop roadmaps that factor in the cross-sectoral changes needed to end deforestation. The fight against illegal logging is ongoing, but can still provide pertinent lessons for agricultural-commodities. But this strategy will only succeed if corporate commitments are coupled with robust regulatory measures.

All stakeholders must be involved. Increasingly, forested developing countries are showing that economic growth does not necessarily come at the expenses of forest preservation. Indonesia dramatically reduced its forest loss by 60 per cent in 2017, and is seeing benefits of improved governance of its forest sector through FLEGT licensing. Strong stakeholder participation in policies to halt deforestation is crucial and urgent, particularly in regions seeing deforestation spikes such as the Congo Basin.

Forest-dependent peoples, particularly women, are the least responsible for forest loss but pay a high price to preserve their lands. Lethal violence and intimidation against environmental rights defenders, on the rise in major forested regions, underscore the urgent need to support communities and indigenous groups’ legal rights, a powerful tool for protecting forests and the climate.

As the EU ponders future support to its ground-breaking FLEGT Action Plan and explores options to tackle imported deforestation at home, it should dive back into the global debate and provide much-needed leadership. There is no ‘planet B’, and no plan B; what is required is a paradigm shift to mobilise critical support beyond those already convinced.