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UAE COP28: Forests Offer Hope, Urgent Action Needed Now

Blog | Wed, 06 Dec, 2023 · 6 min read

A sense of urgency is characterizing the negotiations at the United Nations' Conference of Parties, better known as COP28. While not everything is lost, immediate action is crucial to alter the course of history. Forests, in this context, can play a pivotal role in combating climate change and improving people's livelihoods, as Mario Boccucci, Head of the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat explains.

Around 70,000 delegates from 196 nations are expected to discuss urgent climate mitigation measures and search for much needed solutions for the climate crisis, with forests being one of the nature-based solutions to change course. Boccucci highlights the importance of two fundamental agendas within COP discussions for forests: the negotiation agenda and the action agenda. “On the negotiation agenda, several articles are timely and crucial for the future of forests. Among them are Article 6 on carbon markets and Article 14 on the global stocktake”, notes Boccucci. He emphasizes that a key discussion for forests in the negotiation front will revolve around carbon markets, particularly on the alignment of the voluntary carbon market with the compliance market.

Regarding the action aspect, Boccucci notes substantial progress, with implementation underway and commitments escalating investments, leading to increased actions. By increasing funding and incentives for ecosystem conservation and restoration, we can not only achieve substantial emissions reductions but also bridge the financial gaps generated by phasing out highly polluting industries. “It is important to focus on these dual dimensions at this COP: the negotiation track and the action track. In both arenas, forests are already well positioned”, points out Boccucci.

While forests are indispensable to combat rising temperatures, they alone cannot solve the climate challenges. UN-REDD’s message at COP28 will address the need to adopt an everything-all-at-once approach, highlighting that there is not a singular solution to the climate crisis. The message advocates for the use of all available tools, solutions, and resources to achieve our climate goals, protect ecosystems and safeguard vulnerable communities, those most profoundly impacted by the catastrophic consequences of climate change. “Every other sector needs to decarbonize, increase its ambitions, and deliver. That is necessary. However, forests have a real key role to play, as science has told us several times”, remarks Boccucci.

Coinciding with Forests Day on December 9, the UN-REDD Programme will celebrate its main event “Everything All at Once: High-Level Dialogue on Supercharging Forest Solutions to the Climate Crisis”, with the participation of Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of UNEP, along with representatives of key forest countries. This high-level dialogue will bring together forest-rich countries and experts to discuss a toolbox of solutions, including the role of carbon markets, monitoring systems, and safeguards framework to supercharge the impacts of forest-based actions on climate change.

For the UN-REDD Programme, fostering a narrative that ignites action while acknowledging forthcoming challenges is paramount. Boccucci stresses the importance of establishing a safe space for all agents of change to engage in robust dialogues and strategize on translating these discussions into impactful, large-scale actions. “This decade demands and will see a massive scale-up of action, finance, and popular mobilization,” he adds.

Looking beyond COP28, the head of the UN-REDD Programme also sees increasing resonance of the forest and broader nature agenda with the public. Practically all of us relate to nature, each with our distinct expectations and demands—be it as a source of food, protection, revenue, or inspiration. The broad support and proactive steps taken by diverse agents of change in favour of forests are highly promising, he notes optimistically. “I think we have valid reasons to be stubborn optimists in the forest space."