‘Barely on track’ to meet 2030 forest goals

Experts say progress is still slow towards Glasgow Declaration – and reliable and accurate data are critical for tracking
Aerial view of a forest in Cameroon. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

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Forest goals set a year ago during the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land use won’t be met if current trend of deforestation continues.

Experts tracking the success of the commitments during an official UNFCCC session at the COP27 summit in Egypt said the goals committed to by 141 governments to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030 are ‘barely on track’ eight years to the target time.

The side event organized by the Center for International Forestry Research and World Agroforestry (CIFOR-ICRAF), the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Climate Focus and University of Helsinki brought together leaders involved in the real-time tracking of the forest goals from the Glasgow Declaration on forests and other international pledges and promises related to forests.

CIFOR-ICRAF senior associate Arild Angelsen said that while there is a need to set up mechanisms that will help compensate those who have shown good results in keeping with the forest targets, the data used to track the progress must be reliable.

Climate Focus Founder and Director Charlotte Streck, who has been tracking global progress, said that while some progress has been made in reducing the global rates of deforestation, it was still ‘not fast enough.’

“So far, we have achieved very little of the announced goals. Global deforestation decreased in 2021 by 6.3%, so it has gone down but not fast enough. In particular Latin America and tropical Africa are not on track. Only tropical Asia is – and it is because of the efforts by Indonesia and Malaysia to significantly reduce deforestation,” Streck said.

Finance for the forest goals has also continued to lag, with green finance just a tenth of what is being committed in grey finance (finance that is not linked in any way to biodiversity or forest goals).

Event participants also discussed the need to deepen monitoring at the regional level, such as the Congo Basin, and provided recommendations that can help speed up the achievement of the goals.

Richard Eba’a Atyi, a senior scientist and hub leader at CIFOR-ICRAF, said there has been significant tracking and safeguards on the set targets, with a view of making a course correction.

An observatory set up in 2007 in the Congo Basin has been collecting data for the 11 countries in Central and West Africa to check trends in forest cover and timber production from forest concessions and protected areas.

Atyi said funding and donor support associated with the forest goals also need monitoring, with even greater focus needed to monitor the role of the informal sector. “We need to include the informal sectors in tracking the factors that derail efforts to achieve the forest goals. For timber, the impact of informal harvesting is greater than what is exported overseas, much as the multinationals are given more attention. In Cameroon, timber export to Chad is more significant that export to China,” he added.

According to Anne Larson, who leads CIFOR-ICRAF’s Governance, equity and well-being team, said safeguards for Indigenous Peoples have yet to receive significant attention. A comparative review of the main multilateral and voluntary safeguards standards revealed that several safeguards lacked clear requirements for equitable or transparent benefit-sharing mechanisms, she added.

However, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has strong involvement of local actors, a diverse population culturally tied to the existence of the forest, and a good institutional framework in climate mitigation, she said. “We feel that there is a need for clear social safeguards as well as secure land and resource tenure rights for the  Indigenous Peoples and local communities throughout the Congo Basin, which has the second largest tropical forest in the world.”

Information gaps remain on the effectiveness of actions to achieve global and national pledges, and their impacts on the environment and social justice were also noted.

Streck told the participants that data remains scarce in some countries without established research organizations. “The declarations are often ambivalent and vague in their formulations, which makes it difficult to monitor progress towards their goals. The formulations present negotiated consensus among the original endorsers of the declaration, at which point they did not have their suitability to be monitored in mind,” she said.

The event brought together a panel to discuss what concrete actions need to be put in place to meet forest goals in the critical region of the Congo Basin, ahead of the launch of the first regional Forest Declaration Assessment.

Marie Tamoifo nkom from the Youth Network for Central African Forests (REJEFAC), Solange Bandiaky-Badji, the Coordinator of the Rights & Resources Initiative (RRI), and Victor Kabengele from the DRC Ministry of Environment who discussed the role of civil society and the importance of participatory and inclusive actions also stressed that coordination, between policies but also between public, private and civil society actors, is also critical. The panel also emphasized the need for appropriate financing that reaches the ground, and for reliable data that can be used by civil society to support their advocacy activities.

The experts observed that there is a need to have proper coordination between donors, policymakers and local leaders, with good knowledge-management systems and training a requisite to tracking the achievement of forest goals.

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