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Climate Ambition Summit: How ambitious was it for forests?

3 February 2021

Climate Ambition Summit: How ambitious was it for forests?

In December 2020, world leaders gathered at the Climate Ambition Summit, deemed a significant moment on the road to COP26, to discuss their ambitions for tackling the climate crisis in the coming years. Forests did not take centre stage. They were buried in the broader categories of nature conservation targets. This omission overlooks one of the most important strategies for tackling climate change: protecting forests. 

Summit takeaways include: 

  • The UK presidency made nature-based solutions one of the Summit priorities, recommitting to protecting 30 per cent of land and sea. But nature-based solutions must improve governance of the world’s forests This “no regrets” mitigation strategy also helps improve community resilience and deliver the Sustainable Development Goals

  • European Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU is “supporting developing countries, to help them decouple their emissions and their economic growth…” As one of the world’s largest importers of timber and agricultural commodities, the EU has a responsibility to ensure that its aid schemes do not subsidise unsustainable and illegal resource extraction and land uses. EU climate finance must therefore encompass a poverty reduction and human rights perspective in line with international agreements. 

  • A “Race to Resilience” was launched at the Summit to safeguard lives and livelihoods of the estimated four billion people vulnerable to climate risks. Research shows that community resilience is best achieved through the recognition of forest governance rights, and respect for the role of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women in forest protection; climate adaptation requires more than smart technologies or tree-planting schemes. 

Looking ahead, strong targets to reduce deforestation and forest degradation are needed, with an emphasis on protecting carbon-rich, unique ecosystems such as natural forests. Many countries have included forest-related targets in their climate plans - Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Fern and its partners have drawn up recommendations for NDCs to fully integrate forest governance objectives. Forests affects climate through multiple pathways, and should be at the core of ambitious action. 

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