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How open science and open data support forest climate action

Blog | Thu, 15 Dec, 2022 · 7 min read
COP 27

The Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP 27) opened with a shared sense of urgency, as speakers underscored the devastating climate impacts that have occurred this year. During the opening ceremony, speakers shared pressing messages from climate science, highlighted the current geopolitical challenges and their effects on energy and food systems and emphasized the necessity of focusing on implementation (IISD, 2022).

Transparency helps build mutual trust and accountability and encourages countries to increase their climate ambition over time. Boosting the transparency of forest data for climate action will be vital to supporting the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement. The ETF will assess the progress countries are making in implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and is crucial for global efforts to achieve the Paris Agreement goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. The ETF will also inform the Global Stocktake (GST), which assesses the world's collective progress towards the Paris Agreement.

Forests and land use are critical components of NDCs, as signaled by the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use, under which countries have pledged to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030. Thus, transparent monitoring and reporting of these actions will require improved forest and emissions removal data, improved access to appropriate technical solutions, strengthened institutional arrangements and ensured sustainable reporting to track progress. COP 27 calls once more for urgently scaled up action and financing for forest-based mitigation to avert catastrophic climate change. The world has only eight years left to turn the pledge a reality.

To date, raising awareness of the evolving climate landscape – particularly, the transparency-related aspects of the Paris Agreement – has been supported by the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) trust fund. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have collaborated on the project, Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest), to make forest data more transparent, accessible and available, in line with the ETF requirements. Similarly, the UN-REDD Programme is providing technical analysis and practical knowledge to countries on how to better integrate and align their REDD+ efforts with key provisions of the Paris Agreement and related implementation, as well as the Climate Promise.

As countries continue to enhance their NDCs over time, advance in ETF implementation and prepare to track NDC progress in the forest sector, lessons learned at global, regional and country levels have been collected and made available in the publication, Towards open and transparent forest data for climate action  – Experiences and lessons learned (also in Spanish and French).

The CBIT-Forest project has contributed to a series of principles for open science, as recommended by UNESCO in 2021, in an effort to promote increased forest transparency. Some examples include:

  • the upgrade of the FAO Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reporting online platform for accessing information related to the status and trends of more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020;
  • the support provided to the Food and Agriculture Microdata (FAM) to populate the forest inventory data collection which contains microdata, metadata and related information on national forest inventories;
  • the equal opportunity to access, contribute to and benefit from transparency-related knowledge products given to almost 10,000 individuals (39% women) who have benefitted from knowledge exchanges and capacity-building activities offered in multiple languages;
  • and, the free self-paced courses made available to the public in multiple languages with digital badge certification in the FAO eLearning platform.

Looking ahead, forest transparency will support the ETF in the coming years by enhancing the quality, timeliness, accessibility and usability of forest-related data, developing capacities, raising awareness about open and transparent forest data and sharing knowledge and cementing networks for knowledge exchange. Open science and open data will be an essential path to support climate action.