With their large, intact forest ecosystems, high forest, low deforestation developing countries (HFLD) play an important role in global climate change mitigation and adaptation. The benefits of intact forests and their removal of carbon from the atmosphere is clear. However, HFLDs have only attracted limited climate finance for forest conservation, while facing growing pressure from the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, such as agriculture and mining. Instead, the bulk of REDD+ financial support is directed to developing countries with a history of high rates of deforestation. While this REDD+ finance is absolutely critical for global climate change mitigation efforts, the time has come to acknowledge the unique challenges faced by HFLDs and to explore options to improve their access to climate finance.
To this end, the International Conference on Climate Finance for HFLD Countries was convened in Paramaribo, Suriname in February, 2019. The Government of Suriname, in collaboration with UNDP and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), hosted the event. Participants represented 15 developing countries (Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Gabon, DRC, Bhutan, Gabon, Guyana, Zambia, Bahamas, Fiji, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Malaysia, Seychelles); 6 developed countries (Norway, Italy, Canada, France, Korea, Finland); 5 UN agencies (UNDP, UN DESA, including UN Forum on Forests, UNICEF, UN Environment, FAO); and 8 other regional and international organizations such as the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Green Hope Foundation.
The conference issued a call to fully recognize the contribution of HFLD countries in the fight against climate change and explored existing funding mechanisms and potential opportunities. The conference kicked off with a discussion establishing the robust scientific basis for the role of HFLDs in meeting global climate change goals. Additionally, the current treatment of HFLDs within the context of climate finance and options to enhance that support were presented. As well, countries shared their experiences and lessons learned on accessing climate finance.
Participants agreed that the contribution of HFLD countries to climate change is not adequately recognized by financial instruments or multilateral climate bodies. Country representatives expressed concern that the financial instruments currently available are limited and make it challenging for HFLD countries to achieve the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Many countries also raised concerns about the disconnect between the cost of reducing forest-related emissions and the prevalent international price of just $5 per tonne under current REDD+ RBP payment schemes.
The key result of the conference was the ‘Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration’, developed through discussions and negotiations amongst the HFLD countries in attendance. Formally adopted on February 14, 2019, the Krutu of Paramaribo “articulates the desire of a group of HFLD countries to work together actively to break down barriers to accessing needed climate finance for the continued progress toward sustainable development goals, with concurrent care and protection for their essential intact forest ecosystems.” To do so, the Krutu calls for increasing cooperation among the HFLD developing countries through a platform for dialogue, coordination and facilitation.
The declaration specifically invites the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to consider ways to improve and simplify access to funding for sustainable forest management, as well as to continue to strengthen the dissemination of information on financing for sustainable forest management and capacity building to access the fund, in particular to HFLD developing countries. In formal statements, the GCF board members from Nicaragua and Seychelles committed to raise the HFLD finance issue with the GCF Board. There was also an invitation to the United Nations system to support the follow up from this conference within existing mandates and resources.
It was agreed that the Government of Suriname would continue to take the lead, bringing the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration to the attention of the international community in several upcoming meetings. Already, Suriname has been demonstrating this leadership, having convened the first meeting and raising the issue of finance for HFLDs at the 14th session of the UN Forum on Forests in May in New York.
The development of financing structures and policies to better include HFLD countries and their forests in the global response to climate change is clearly needed. The global conference and its resulting activity is generating momentum for the global community to act. This momentum needs to be sustained as we look ahead to the Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September where the importance of intact, stable forests and the contributions of HFLD countries to nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation will be prominent.