There is a renewed sense of optimism around tackling climate change – the international community must harness this momentum and scale-up efforts to protect and restore tropical forests.
A coalition of private and public sector partners have launched the Green Gigaton Challenge, which aims to mobilize funds to achieve its target of one gigaton of high-quality emissions reductions, per year, by 2025.
If we are going to make 2021 a turning point for forests and climate change, we need to concentrate efforts and attention on coming together to support an ambitious objective for COP-26 and embrace flexibility on scaling-up finance to protect and restore tropical forests – or REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
Setting a measurable and ambitious objective for COP-26
We propose that COP-26 delivers a public-private bid for one gigaton of high-quality emissions reductions with a floor price for forest carbon starting at $10/tCO₂e and adjusted gradually upwards over time. This would represent an unmistakable signal of financial ambitions and be a powerful force to help change the economics and politics of deforestation in many parts of the world so as to make conservation and sustainable use of forests an attractive alternative. Success in delivering one gigaton of emissions reductions would in turn catalyse further even larger-scale private and public funding commitments. We are calling this the Green Gigaton Challenge.
Results-based finance that pays for delivery of measurable outcomes in terms of forest and climate protection has the potential to facilitate larger scale and more effective international funding support, as well as to mobilize private sector participation. Results-based finance allows donors to commit more resources to verifiable results as the risk of achieving those results is shared with the countries responsible. Another advantage is that forest countries themselves are better able to choose their own pathways to achieving goals, avoiding the conditionality often associated with input-based aid programmes.
Predictable flow of finance is essential
With a sufficiently high and predictable carbon revenue stream, forest countries could expand national budget allocations knowing that the investment needed to achieve REDD+ outcomes would not lead to a long-term increase in the national debt. Credit rating agencies and development finance institutions could treat efforts to achieve and go beyond NDC goals as investments delivering positive financial returns. And donor governments could more confidently provide additional grant funding for capacity building.
Whether the Green Gigaton Challenge can make a difference is a function of price and volume: there is a number where the economics for conservation becomes overwhelmingly compelling. For example, a 1 gigaton annual bid over a decade starting at a floor price of $10/tCO₂e and increasing gradually to $30/tCO₂e would move the needle and change the trajectory of forest-use in the Amazon, Congo and Indonesian forests.
The launching of a REDD+ bid and the establishment of an attractive floor price will require financial support from the international community, and therefore a consensus on what constitutes a high-quality emission reduction. We believe that jurisdictional REDD+ is the best approach to ensure high levels of social and environmental integrity, as well as to mobilize the government actions that are needed to drive forest protection at a large scale.
ICAO's CORSIA has approved two REDD+ standards at the jurisdictional level, ART-TREES (Architecture for REDD+ Transactions – The REDD+ Environmental Excellence Standard) and the VCS-JNR (Verified Carbon Standard – Jurisdictional and Nested REDD+). The latter is currently undergoing a major revision.
We believe that ART-TREES is a good candidate to enable the market to get started and this does not close the door to the coexistence of high-quality standards. Our focus is on quality.
Jurisdictional approach and REDD+ projects
Jurisdictional REDD+, including nested projects, provides significantly higher levels of social and environmental integrity than a stand-alone project approach.Our proposal for a gigaton REDD+ bid will create incentives to accelerate jurisdictional programmes, including nesting of projects and other on-the-ground efforts.
This year provides a unique opportunity to make forests a real pillar of climate mitigation efforts. This will require great ambition, a focus on key elements of change, as well as pragmatism and flexibility as we scale-up REDD+. A key element of change, and one that has not been tried so far, is to send a clear and unmistakable signal of ambitions for REDD+. The Green Gigaton Challenge aims to be such a signal. Let´s work together to ensure a bid for a gigaton in high-quality REDD+ emission reductions by COP-26.
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Gabriel Labbate, Global Team Leader, UNEP/UN-REDD
Rupert Edwards, Senior Advisor, Forest Trends
Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist, Environmental Defense Fund
Jacinto Coello, Programme Management Officer, UN Environment