Tough questions can come from the most unexpected sources. As the father of three teenage children, starting a new job with the Climate Investments Funds as Forest Investment Program (FIP) Coordinator was a new experience in more ways than one.
As well as being the office newbie and having to learn the ropes there, my children - rather than just being aware that ‘dad works in forests’, which was the extent of their interest when they were younger - gave me a bit of a grilling
A bit of blunt questioning actually helped me think through why I think the FIP is important. Having been a part of the international community that is trying to preserve forests for a number of years I can appreciate the pressures that forests and the people that depend on them are under. I’ve also seen the potential forests have when they are well looked after, but I know getting it right is a tough business and needs a range of people and skills.
The FIP has a privileged position being able to bring all important actors and financing mechanisms together at scale. This is why y I am keen to be part of it. So I joined the CIF aptly aware that sustainably managed, productive forests can play a significant role in reducing emissions while supporting livelihoods. And I knew that the $775 million FIP was providing direct investments in forestry to support countries’ development and reforestation objectives, among others by involving Indigenous Peoples.
What I didn’t know was that partnership runs through FIP on many levels – yes, there’s a great team but there’s also a real sense of joint ownership with the countries and the multilateral development banks involved.
FIP has been around since 2009 and now has programs up and running in all eight of its original pilot countries and targets the full range of benefits, products and services from forests. But the challenges facing these countries and many others as to how to best maintain and use their forest resources have not disappeared. In fact they have probably deepened. With increasing populations, the pressure to convert forests for agricultural production, the perennial problems of illegal logging and the growing influence of climate change the future for many forests does indeed look bleak.
However, also for the sake of my and everyone else’s children, I want to be an optimist. We are offered an opportunity within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-Paris Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to put forests at the center of politics and policies. Forests are crucial to food security, water security, climate security as well as livelihoods so they cut across all the SDGs. And not only were forests mentioned explicitly in the COP text, the ambition to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees has drawn renewed attention to their potential to limit climate change by storing carbon that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere – because stopping deforestation can reduce as much as 19% of current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This vision doesn’t just avoid these losses of forest as we want to preserve them as valuable ecosystems. It places forests as a foundation of rural development that can also deliver long-term benefits to the local and national economies. Done well, these approaches see forests help maintain vibrant rural communities that were faced with tough futures. We have ambitious plans: twelve FIP projects aim to improve land management of 27 million hectares of forest – that’s the size of Burkina Faso - and support 671,000 people.
Back at home, I tried to explain things like ‘scale’ and ‘international financial architecture’ and ‘partnerships coming together’. They could grasp most of it, but they mainly want to stop ravaging rainforest fires and preserve habitats of orang utans. I could only say ‘well, I do my very best and I think I am in the right place’. I’m already looking forward to sharing my updates with them and via this blog too.