Preserving and restoring natural carbon sinks

Video: The funding area "Conserving natural carbon sinks/REDD+" in a nutshell

Forests and tropical forest ecosystems in particular, store large amounts of carbon in their biomass. As a result of land-use change, deforestation and forest overexploitation, this stored carbon is released into the atmosphere as CO2 and contributes to global climate change. According to figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the resulting greenhouse gas emissions make up roughly twelve percent of total anthropogenic emissions worldwide. The international community has therefore developed an approach known as ‘REDD+’, which offers financial incentives to preserve forests in emerging market and developing economies. This approach aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and the degradation of forests in the long term.

Within the funding area ‘Preserving and restoring natural carbon sinks’, an important part of the work of International Climate Initiative (IKI) is supporting other countries to implement the REDD+ framework. IKI is also funding projects for forest and landscape restoration (FLR) as part of the Bonn Challenge.

The support targets strategies intended for the implement of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in partner countries. Priorities here include funding sustainable business models and mobilising private investment. One central aim of this work area is to utilise synergies between forest conservation and biodiversity conservation, and between emissions mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Global ideas for climate action and biodiversity conservation

Insights from IKI projects offer innovative input for international negotiations conducted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Know-how from project work is also applied as part of international and multilateral initiatives. 

The United Nations emphasises the importance of restoring degraded forests and other landscapes and recognizes the vital contribution they make in protecting the climate and biodiversity, and has officially designated the period 2021 to 2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The objective of this UN Decade is to contribute to furthering the goals of three UN Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Sustainable development also includes the moderate usage of ecosystems that make significant contributions to the livelihoods of local communities in IKI partner countries. A secure source of income coupled with protection of forests, also plays an important role for the long-term preservation of these ecosystems.

Ecosystem diversity offers a wide range of opportunities for carbon sequestration

Alongside FLR and REDD+ measures, which are implemented especially in tropical countries, IKI also finances measures for mitigating emissions and sequestering carbon in other ecosystems: these include moorlands and grasslands as well as boreal coniferous forests.

Intact forests for climate change mitigation: the REDD+ framework

The basic idea of the REDD+ framework consists of providing emerging market and developing economies with financial incentives to demonstrably reduce deforestation and forest degradation. The approach comprises three phases:

Phase 1: Readiness

Nations develop national REDD+ strategies, and specify a reference value based on rates of deforestation and current forest stocks. This enables the development of forested areas to be compared with areas in the past, making this development measurable. The difference in the two values also enables calculations of forest retention and the volume of greenhouse gas emissions that have been avoided as a result. 

Phase 2: Implementation

Countries implement the agreed measures, reduce deforestation and use pilot projects to investigate how REDD+ can be used to avoid emissions. The corresponding IKI projects provide important insights into best practices for protecting forests without conflict and ensuring that REDD+ payments are fairly distributed to all participating groups.

Phase 3: Payments for results

Nations are compensated retroactively for proven reductions in emissions. Payments can also be made if the country has achieved progress in implementing reforms in its forestry sector. Payments are forwarded to participating actors using a profit distribution system. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) in particular has a key role to play in REDD+ financing. 

Social and environmental safeguards, and additional benefits of carbon sequestration

Internationally,  the conservation of biodiversity is viewed as an important additional benefit provided by REDD+. To increase these kinds of ‘co-benefits’, appropriate criteria should be integrated into the REDD+ strategies.

At the same time, social and environmental safeguards must also be applied in order to prevent any negative consequences resulting from REDD+ measures. Protecting the rights and participation of local populations and indigenous peoples is an  important goal here. IKI accordingly supports projects that develop, implement and monitor such projects and therefore promote co-benefits.

IKI’s role in establishing the REDD+ framework

IKI has helped to shape and influence the design of the international REDD+ framework by providing partner countries with support in developing and applying solutions for implementing REDD+ strategies (Phase 2). This has ensured the creation of a results-based REDD+ system.

IKI projects address a broad spectrum of instruments. From pilot projects to establishing technical know-how and institutional structures, advising governments and providing technical expertise, project work also ensures the effective use of investment in the forestry sector while promoting the exchange of knowledge and experience.

Selected Projects

Forest Landscape Restoration by means of sustainable wood energy value chains

Operationalising REDD+ through Public-Private Partnerships for Sustainable Landscapes in Lam Dong

Production Driven Forest Landscape Restoration under REDD+ through Private Sector – Community Partnerships as Asian Regional Learning Exchange

Bonn Challenge: restoring forest landscapes

In many countries, deforestation and the degradation of natural forest ecosystems are causing a substantial decline in the effectiveness of these ecosystems to store water, sequester carbon and protect against erosion. Accordingly, measures for the restoration and ecosystem-based adaptation of forests not only make a decisive contribution to climate change mitigation but also work to conserve biodiversity and support sustainable development.

In light of this, the German government and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) organised a ministerial conference in September 2011 to launch the Bonn Challenge. Participating nations set a goal to ensure the restoration of 150 and 350 million hectares of deforested and degraded forest landscapes by 2020 and 2030, respectively (New York Declaration on Forests).

Numerous countries have now pledged to participate. Already in 2017, pledges from countries and the private sector to rebuild forest landscapes stood at 150 million hectares, marking an important milestone. In 2020, pledges already amounted to over 220 million hectares.  

IKI supports projects that are piloting innovative approaches to forest ecosystem restoration, and developing measures and funding instruments that ensure the dissemination of these efforts.

Selected Projects

Measuring emission mitigation and carbon sequestration, reporting and verifying

Since the start of international negotiations on climate, representatives of governments and researchers have worked on a system capable of measuring, reporting and verifying measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (measurement, reporting and verification, MRV). MRV describes the monitoring of data provided by mitigation measures and greenhouse gas emissions, the reprocessing of this data into reports and inventories, and their verification as part of an international process.

However, developing MRV systems and applying MRV requirements both represent a major challenge. All countries need to collect the necessary data, for example, while also creating inventories of greenhouse gas emissions, emissions forecasts and economic analyses. These various approaches must now be incorporated into national REDD+ systems.

IKI is funding selected projects that help partner nations to plan and implement mitigation measures intended to be MRV compatible. These include South-South partnerships that are developing methods for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and information systems for REDD+ safeguards.

Selected projects

National Land Monitoring and Information System for a transparent NDC reporting

Land usage and agriculture: leveraging potential for climate change mitigation

The IPCC estimates that roughly a quarter of all global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are caused by agriculture, forestry and other land-use changes. At the same time, climate change is also causing extreme weather events such as drought and flooding, which are extremely harmful to agriculture. This, in turn, threatens the livelihoods of the less fortunate population groups in rural areas.

The importance of agriculture for land usage, together with its major potential for mitigation and adaptation has become a matter of intense international interest since the IPCC’s publication of its Special Report in August 2019. The livelihoods of farming communities need to be secured in the long term with resilient and intact ecosystems. While at the same time, sustainable agriculture by increasing humus content or shade tree planting, for example also has a key role to play in climate change mitigation.

Landscape-based approaches

IKI is providing targeted approach to countries who are using landscape-based approaches to balance out competing land usage interests. These approaches take both human wellbeing and an intact environment into account. As a result, the effectiveness of these ecosystems is retained or restored, as appropriate. In addition, forests also play an important part in many projects aimed at ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA).

Agroforestry systems

IKI is also utilising the great potential of agroforestry systems (AFS) for mitigation and adaptation.The initiative is financing projects that support the development of sustainable value chains for agroforestry systems such as cocoa or coffee, for example. Unlike monocultures, biodiverse agroforestry systems exhibit greater ecological sustainability, as they require fewer chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers or indeed none at all. These systems also offer a wide range of ‘co-benefits’, such as carbon sequestration, income diversification, pest control and an increase in soil moisture. IKI projects also advice governments in partner countries on how to ensure the institutionalisation of agroforestry systems over the long term.

Selected projects

Taking Land Use Change out of Commodity Production in Savannahs and Grasslands through Policy Engagement, Land Use Planning and Best Management Practices

Development of business models for cooperation with the private sector as a instrument for socially acceptable restoration of near-natural forests

From full sun to shaded cocoa agroforestry systems

Implementing sustainable land use systems to contribute to forest conservation, climate protection and the peace-building process in Colombia

Restoration and sustainable landscape management in El Salvador