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  • Apr 03, 2017

Land and Poverty: Delivering Productive and Climate-Resilient Agriculture and Forestry Matters

Ian Gray 

When it comes to eliminating deforestation from commodity supply chains, it’s been an exciting last few years.

With declarations made in New York and Amsterdam, and the Paris Agreement, governments are making major commitments. 

When it comes to eliminating deforestation from commodity supply chains, it’s been an exciting last few years. Through the declarations made in New York and Amsterdam and most importantly the Paris Agreement, governments in many countries are making major commitments. 

They’re doing this, increasingly in step with the private sector and civil society. Showing a unity that was lacking for so long and is so very welcome right now. That’s because unlocking how to deliver productive and climate-resilient agriculture and forestry really matters. It is a pre-condition for delivering global food security and human development.

There are a number of reasons why this is increasingly on the public and political agendas:

  • Deforestation and agriculture are responsible for just under a quarter of GHG emissions. So reducing these will really move the needle when it comes to tackling climate change.
  • Forests and agriculture are important drivers of many developing countries’ economies – often the starting point of supply chains that span the world.
  • And three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas relying on natural resources for their livelihoods. Crucial if we are to deliver on the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals and to ‘leave no-one behind’.

Right now, we are close to a point where the interests and incentives of business, policy-makers and international donors are becoming closely aligned. This shift opens up a real opportunity for getting to scale with sustainable land use. 

But despite this opening, making the connections between the many players, their needs, their business models and the range of funding remains difficult. That’s because we are only beginning to understand the challenges facing state and non-state actors working with the economic, social and ecological complexities associated with rural development. 

But there are already examples of where that challenge is beginning to be met:

  • Many national, sub-national and regional governments in key forest countries are setting ambitious green growth plans focusing on sustainable land use. For example, the Governors’ Climate and Forest Task Force work in the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Acre. 
  • In West and Central Africa, we are seeing collaboration between governments, business and local people to develop principles for sustainable palm oil and cocoa. 
  • From the business side, by end of 2016, more than 400 companies had time-bound goals for removing deforestation from their products – including some of the most iconic brands and products.

We are also seeing more collaborations like that between the Tropical Forest Alliance and the Banking Environment Initiative gaining traction. Within my own organization, the Climate Investment Funds’ Forest Investment Program, we’re supporting sound governance that is good for business, and, also provides good outcomes socially and environmentally -- the so-called triple-win.

Despite the progress, it's important to acknowledge that governments, business and communities still face challenges, ranging from matching the pace of change as they target sustainable development to linking rural livelihoods to the worlds of business and finance, which is essential if we are to ever see the step change we are all working towards.

All of this raises three pretty big questions:

  • How do these international, national, local and even individual – demands, pressures and incentives come together?
  • Is the fabled, and much-sought triple-win really there?
  • And, are tough trade-offs between mitigation, adaptation and development objectives inevitable?

These are just some of the challenges aired and insights shared at the World Bank's Land and Poverty Conference 2017, into some of the opportunities and innovations at the nexus of climate and sustainable land use.

This year's theme was Responsible Land Governance—Towards an Evidence-Based Approach. In case you missed it, here's a link to more information.