I’m the Director of Financing within the National Forestry Commission of the Government of Mexico. The picture below is of where I was born, in a little town located in the mountains of Oaxaca. It was a great place to grow up and it was where I learned on a daily basis how important forests were to the livelihood of my community.
That is also a reality for many in Mexico, since 70 percent of our territory is covered in forests. And 45 percent of this surface is owned by ejidos and communities, a Mexican particularity in terms of land ownership. This means almost 11 million people depend on forests to live.
But we have a problem. On average, from 2010 to 2015, Mexico lost 92 thousand hectares of forests every year, and while it was 22 percent less than the previous period, we continue working to reduce that number.
Forests are a crucial part of an equitable and sustainable world, tackling climate change and enabling millions of men and women in rural communities to secure greater prosperity. They provide so many economic, social and environmental benefits and so far, have not been fully appreciated.
Forests can be engines of economic growth, energy generation and food security. They help purify water and maintain water resources. One quote that has stayed with me throughout my efforts in the forestry sector is this: “When forests do not have a high enough financial value or an opportunity cost satisfactory to producers, they tend to disappear”.
What does this mean for policy makers? Simple - any transformational change and policy strategy must aim to slow deforestation and forest degradation. It must also help improve economic opportunities.
We live in a moment of such importance for the planet. Climate change is an ever-present threat, and it is our duty to ensure that the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals are delivered. Unless we pay attention to forests, this will be very difficult to achieve.
Stopping deforestation can reduce as much as 19 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Up to another 10 percent of emissions could be sucked out of the atmosphere by re-growing forests which have been cut down. That’s because forests act as a sink, soaking up carbon emissions which would otherwise pollute the atmosphere.
Sustainable forest management has been on the political agenda since 1992’s Rio Earth Summit and there’s been a decade of dialogue at the UNFCCC. There has been lots of progress in the past two years, which helped build momentum towards the inclusion of something called REDD+ in the Paris agreement. REDD stands for:
- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation
- Conservation of forest carbon stocks
- Sustainable forest management
- And enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Essentially, this provides financial incentives for developing countries to better protect, manage and sustainably use their forest resources. In so doing, they help conserve biodiversity and tackle climate change. That's important because 75 percent of the world’s poor are rural and depend on healthy landscapes for their livelihoods, food security and development opportunities.
In remote rural areas, forests are often the main resource on which to build an economy and can provide a safety net in times of extreme hardship, such as when droughts hit. Forests are especially important for the Indigenous Peoples who live in them. When we lose forests, we aggravate climate change, and Indigenous Peoples and rural communities lose their greatest source of livelihoods, tearing their social and cultural fabric apart.
That’s why the CIF has been focusing on forests since inception. The CIF's Forest Investment Program has grown from 8 countries to 14, making it an even more informed group of actors with diverse constituencies and experiences we can draw, share and learn from.
The Government of Mexico is deeply committed to contributing to the international agenda on environment and sustainable development. Our National Development Plan includes a National Forestry Program. This has the ultimate goal of achieving sustainable economic growth that preserves the natural resources and environmental services that are crucial to our well-being.
REDD+ in Mexico is based on sustainable rural development. It implies that all sector related to forests must coordinate their activities to achieve an integrated land management.
And there's some good news on that: at the biannual UN meetings on biodiversity recently held in Cancun, our Minister of Environment and Minister of Agriculture signed an agreement to work even more closely together in order to preserve forests and limit land use change for agriculture. This matters because agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation.
Having this approach in mind, we are implementing very innovative schemes under the Forest Investment Program. Initial financing of $60 million has leveraged almost $700 additional million from national and international sources. About $350 million of this comes from the World Bank.
In the past 12 months, the World Bank and the FIP have been working with Mexico and contributing to improve the livelihoods of about 3,000 forest communities around the country through sustainable management of forestry goods and services. Approximately 88 percent of funding goes directly to small scale projects proposed, prepared, and implemented by ejidos and communities.
Also, working with the Inter-American Development Bank, we are looking to address the lack of access to finance of ejidos and communities, by helping them create financially and environmentally sustainable business in forest landscapes. Our investment plan is expected to transform and increase financing for low carbon sustainable projects through concessional loans, guarantee funds and technical assistance.
I can tell you one thing: the forest sector is a complex one, because of the diverse actors operating in it and their particular interests. And it is this diversity, the coordination amongst them, and the lessons we have learned by working together, that has helped to change the way the forest sector is regarded, as:
- An attractive sector for investments,
- A vital alternative for climate change mitigation,
- And for the people who live in it, a steady income source.
We have more work to do. And it is more important than ever to have allies in every sector and every level of society, locally and globally, that help us spread the word on the real value of forests. I echo the thoughts of Mafalda Duarte, Manager of the CIF. See what she had to say about forests.
The bottom line? Forests are the heart and lungs of the world. Let’s work together to keep them active, breathing and keeping the planet and its people healthy.