The Conservancy’s former acting President and CEO Stephanie Meeks talked with nature.org about this new partnership — and its potential to help stem the tide of global climate change.
"Creating financial incentives to tackle deforestation would have enormous impacts on the climate. It has the potential to channel tens of billions of dollars toward the protection and sustainable management of forests."
Acting president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy
What is the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility - and why is The Nature Conservancy making such a significant contribution to it?
The goal of this partnership is to demonstrate that giving forest-rich developing countries incentives to preserve their standing tropical forests — not cut them down — can be part of the global solution to climate change.
Right now, developing countries earn more from cutting forests than from keeping them standing. This partnership will bring developed and industrialized countries together — along with forest communities, indigenous groups, the private sector and civil society — to experiment with ways to establish a financial value for the carbon stored in standing forests.
The $5 million investment we’re making will help provide some of the seed money needed to figure out how to make this work on a large-scale. The Conservancy is the only non-governmental organization to invest in this partnership, which could grow to more than $200 million. The Conservancy will join other investors in the Facility, including the governments of Germany, Japan, Australia, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland.
For the Conservancy, reducing emissions from deforestation is a key part of our strategy to address climate change. Establishing financial incentives for stopping deforestation, through a global forest carbon market or other mechanism, is a win-win-win — good for the climate, good for biodiversity and good for local communities.
How does this help address climate change? Shouldn’t we be concentrating on reducing fossil fuel emissions?
There's no silver bullet for addressing climate change. We certainly need to reduce energy-sector emissions. But forest loss and degradation account for approximately 15 percent of global climate change emissions — more than all the planes, trains and cars worldwide. It's simply too big a source of greenhouse gas emissions to ignore.
The negotiations that are happening here in Bali have put this front and center as a key issue for any future international agreement on climate change. Eventually, by establishing new innovative financial mechanisms, these international discussions have the potential to channel billions of dollars annually to forest conservation and management, contributing to emissions reductions, plant and wildlife conservation and local livelihoods. The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility will provide real-world, practical experience to inform these future negotiations.
Why is this being done through the World Bank? Couldn’t the Conservancy – or other private groups – do this more efficiently?
Other groups could step in — but the World Bank has the administrative and oversight experience needed to manage an international public-private fund of this size. The Bank currently manages over $2 billion in 10 different global carbon funds on behalf of governments and private companies.
What does the Conservancy bring to this partnership? And what do we get out of it?
We bring a wealth of experience and expertise to this effort. We’ve been a leader in the area of forest carbon for more than a decade, and we're currently working on forest carbon projects in six countries on more than 1.5 million acres of land. Those projects include one of the most rigorous, large-scale forest carbon projects ever done — the Noel Kempff Mercado Climate Action Project in Bolivia.
In particular, we will promote approaches that are environmentally sound and equitable for the people who call these forests home. Our reputation for credible and rigorous approaches to measuring forest carbon can help build confidence and hopefully attract other investors as the partnership develops.
But let’s not forget what we can get out of this: By investing in this partnership, we have a chance to address climate change and advance our conservation goals on a scale we could never reach working on our own. That’s what makes this partnership so powerful.
This concept has been around since negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol, but it has faced some significant technical and structural hurdles. Our understanding about forest carbon and climate change has advanced significantly since then.
So there is now a new chance to turn this idea into a reality. And frankly, our window is fairly limited. With the world’s attention on the Bali climate change talks and the U.S. Congress moving on legislation to address the problem, now is the time to move forward.
What the world really needs — and what this partnership will provide — is some practical experience that shows concretely how incentives and programs to reduce the emissions from deforestation can be implemented at an international scale, with all necessary stakeholders engaged.
Without this, the world may never really stem the tide of global deforestation…or global climate change.
Stephanie Meeks is the former CEO of The Nature Conservancy.