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At COP25, UN Agencies Commit to Turn the Tide on Deforestation

At COP25 in Madrid, Heads of UN agencies met for a high-level Leadership Dialogue on how to turn the tide on deforestation and committed to the common goal of helping countries reduce deforestation and improve forest management.

According to the UN, up to 23% of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector.

However, a myriad of forest-based solutions taking place on the ground show the real and promising results that forests can deliver.

As President of COP25, Chile initiated the “Santiago Call for Action on Forests.” (See Call for Action in Spanish.) The call highlights the fact that climate change, including increases in frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, is impacting terrestrial ecosystems, exacerbating existing risks to livelihoods, food systems, infrastructure, human and ecosystem health, and biodiversity.

The COP25 Presidency issued a call for action on seven essential activities, including on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancing so-called “sinks” which absorb carbon.

Together with improved land management options, forests and trees could provide up to 30% of greenhouse gas mitigation required by 2030 to keep the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius, the upper temperature goal of the Paris Agreement.

Participants at high-level dialogue on deforestation COP25

All UN agencies at today’s high-level Dialogue committed firmly to the common goal of helping countries to reduce deforestation and improve forest management.

The United Nations Forum on Forestsrepresented by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, which serves as the Secretariat of the Forum, highlighted the importance of promoting sustainable management of all types of forests and implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests by 2030:

“Implementation of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests by 2030 will reverse the loss of forests and increase them by 3% globally and will also help eradicate extreme poverty for forest-dependent people. UN DESA, through its work in support of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and the UN Forum on Forests, is committed to playing its vital role in accelerating global efforts to halt deforestation and promoting sustainable management of all types of forests.” – Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) underlined that addressing deforestation requires looking beyond the forest sector to identify the main drivers of deforestation:

“We need to look beyond the forests. To step up action against deforestation and forest degradation, we need to find consensus to agree on reducing footprints of agricultural commodities. We need to work with all stakeholders in supporting global efforts to turn the tide on deforestation.” – Mr. QU Dongyu, Director General.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) explained the concept of land-degradation neutrality to help countries identify and address the drivers of deforestation in a robust way:

“Halting deforestation and restoring degraded forests are global imperatives. Land Degradation Neutrality– SDG Target 15.3 – provides the robust framework needed to keep land, including forests, healthy and resilient over the long haul, which in turn will keep food, energy, carbon and biodiversity in balance. Restoring degraded lands means better lives and income for farmers and herders and for women and youth, and less pressure to migrate to cities.” – Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) emphasized the need for transformative action that connects sustainable activities across different sectors, in particular land-use and food:

“Faced with growing rates of global deforestation, there is an urgent need to transform economic systems related to food and land use. The new four-year GEF-7 strategy reflects this with a focus on harnessing the existing and emerging multi-stakeholder platforms committed to sustainability, which include important global companies from the food sector.” – Ms. Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) agreed with the strong need for action, and highlighted several areas for the implementation of solutions:

“We need to focus on nature-positive agriculture; clean up our supply-chains; adopt sustainable consumption and production methods; partner with the private sector and put a price on carbon. And the good news is that there is much greater awareness about the state of our forests than ever before and when we build leadership in one place, we will witness a race to the top to save our planet’s forests.” – Ms. Inger Andersen, Executive Director.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stressed the need to implement the existing REDD+framework to reduce deforestation effectively and raise ambition in NDCs:

“Supporting countries to tackle deforestation is an essential component of climate action and thus of UNDP’s Climate Promise. REDD+ is a “ready to go” nature-based solution. And the UN-REDD Programme provides a platform for the UN to support countries to raise their nature-based NDC ambition.” – Mr. Achim Steiner, Administrator.

Patricia Espinosa at high-level dialogue on deforestation COP25

Regarding implementation on the ground, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Changeadded:

“The agreement on the REDD+ framework was a milestone. It gives a clear direction on how countries, civil society and the private sector can collaborate to reduce deforestation. While it’s only a starting point, its strength is its flexibility. Each country can adapt it to its national circumstances and enhance implementation over time— especially by including REDD+ activities in their NDCs.” – Ms. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary.

Addressing deforestation is an issue that is a concern throughout the UN organization and for millions throughout the world. All UN agencies emphasized their readiness to support countries in their efforts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation, building on existing efforts to provide technical and financial support, and working together as partners. Trust-building through the UNFCCC transparency framework will remain vital for collaboration on this important matter.

Finally, it was also highlighted that reducing deforestation requires an effort by all stakeholders, engaging local communities and indigenous peoples, women and youth, civil society and the private sector, as well as producers and consumers.

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