The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released its second major report this morning, entitled “Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and Better Climate.” This report is important both in the broad context of climate progress, and because of what these eminent global thought leaders recommend on forests and land use.
Maximizing Climate Progress in 2015
The first report from the Global Commission made a convincing case that countries at all income levels have the opportunity to simultaneously build lasting economic growth and reduce climate emissions. This report builds on that vision by charting a course for the international partnerships needed to get there.
A new international climate agreement in Paris will lay a critical foundation for the low-carbon economy, but won’t finish the entire building. In fact, today’s report determines right up front that the pledges countries submit for Paris will be unlikely to achieve a 2°C climate path.
1 The Commission does call for as much ambition as possible from each country in their domestic climate pledges to leave as little a gap as possible – but that call for smart, low-emissions growth is not the innovative message of this report. It is what comes next that is potentially revolutionary: the Commission identifies global partnerships in 10 specific areas of cooperation that can close the gap.
At its most basic level, the message of this report is “We can do more together than alone.”
How much more? A lot. The report’s Figure 1 pretty much sums it up in bright green technicolor: fully implementing the international partnerships recommended by the Commission would achieve 16-26 Gt CO2 per year of reduction by 2030 – up to 96% of what is needed to have a good chance of staying below 2°C.
The emissions reduction potential of the Commission’s recommendations (Gt CO2e)
New Partnerships for Forest and Land Use
Forests and land provide one of the biggest opportunities for mitigation between now and 2030. There is no doubt that international cooperation in the sector has been accelerating over the past few years. The Commission calls out several specific efforts as examples of this emerging trend, including the New York Declaration on Forests, the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, regional initiatives such as the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance and Initiative 20×20, and the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020.
To bring these emerging partnerships to scale, the Commission recommends three specific elements of a comprehensive global partnership to restore and protect agriculture and forest landscapes and increase agricultural productivity:
Governments, multilateral and bilateral finance institutions, the private sector and willing investors should work together to scale up sustainable land use financing, towards a global target of halting deforestation and putting into restoration at least 500 million ha of degraded farmlands and forests by 2030.Developed economies and forested developing countries should enter into partnerships that scale up international flows for REDD+, focused increasingly on mechanisms that generate verified emission reductions, with the aim of financing a further 1 Gt CO2e per year from 2020 and beyond.
The private sector should commit to extending deforestation-free supply chain commitments for key commodities and enhanced financing to support this.
What’s new in here? A few things stand out.
- Integrated: The core elements – restoring degraded agriculture and forest lands, and halting deforestation by 2030 by scaling up REDD+ and extending private-sector deforestation-free commitments – are seen as a comprehensive whole. If you want long-term sustainability, low emissions and economic growth from the land sector, than you have to approach landscapes comprehensively. Protect healthy forests, restore degraded forests, and increase productivity of degraded agricultural lands. You can’t pick just one.
- Pro-growth: Some of the best economists in the world have agreed that halting deforestation as part of a comprehensive low-emissions strategy in the land sector is ultimately good for the economy. Yes, there are costs. Yes, they may be substantial. But the costs are transitional and the benefits are long-term and large.
- Collaborative: International partnerships such as REDD+ and private sector deforestation-free commitments are necessary to meet global climate and economic ambition. We can do more together than alone.
- Big: This global call for developed and developing countries to announce 1 Gt per year of concrete REDD+ partnerships is big and new. Collectively, the Commission estimates that, together with restoration, this integrated approach can lead to emission reductions of 3.3–9.0 Gt CO2e in 2030 (midpoint 6.2 Gt) while making agriculture more productive and resilient, and boosting the incomes of agrarian and forest communities in developing countries.
1. This shouldn’t be surprising, as Nick Stern – co-chair of the Commission with former President Felipe Calderon – released an analysis in May with this conclusion, echoing Climate Advisers’ gap analysis from December 2014. Stern and co-authors show that the Paris pledges from just the EU, US, and China add up to around 21 Gt per year in 2030, while the entire rest of the world is currently at 26 Gt and growing. The entire rest of the world would need to peak by 2030 at no more than 29 Gt per year for the world to have a greater than 50-50 chance of sticking to 2°C.
2. Figure Notes: Bars show mean emissions reduction potential for each field with the full ranges in brackets. Source: New Climate Economy, 2015. “Estimates of Emissions Reduction Potential for the 2015 Report: Technical Note.” A technical note for Seizing the Global Opportunity: Partnerships for Better Growth and a Better Climate. Available at: http://newclimateeconomy.report/misc/working-papers.