Since its inception a decade ago, the EU REDD Facility’s ambition has been to support dialogue and partnership between state and non-state actors to strengthen efforts to ensure tropical forests meet their potential to limit climate change.
As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Facility, we’re taking the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned over these years, as we worked towards empowering stakeholders to strengthen the rule of law, promoting sustainable land use and investment, and enhancing supply chain transparency.
It’s fitting that we share these insights as the 14th edition of the EU Development Days on the Green Deal for a Sustainable Future gets underway. The EU has a strong track record of global leadership in dealing with deforestation and forest degradation, and the European Green Deal commits to measures to support deforestation-free value chains. Our work is aligned with this ambitious response to the continued widespread destruction of the world’s forests.
Significant progress has been made over the past few years towards ending deforestation and understanding the drivers and solutions to this complex problem. Yet governments, the private sector and citizens all over the world need to urgently step up action to protect and restore the world’s forests. We hope that the lessons we have learned over the past decade help to shape and accelerate future action:
1. There must be clear and well-enforced legal frameworks for land use.
Unclear legal frameworks — and a lack of implementation and compliance with these frameworks — often lead to illegal land allocation and forest conversion, including for the expansion of commercial agriculture. Giving forest and agriculture sector actors incentives to comply with the law strengthens efforts to make commodity production and trade deforestation-free. It also promotes better land-use governance and helps achieve climate targets.
2. Participatory and informed land-use planning is key to reduce land conflicts and deforestation.
Inclusion and collaboration are important for designing and implementing land-use plans. If all stakeholders at different levels – including local communities and organisations – are involved in important official decisions about land use, there is more compliance with land laws, and more sustainable outcomes are achieved for everyone.
3. Partnership approaches build an enabling environment for sustainable land-use.
Clarifying definitions and responsibilities, sharing credible information for decision-makers, and fostering trust between partners builds transparency and accountability in the forest and land-use sectors. These efforts build an enabling environment for forest-friendly development and investment, and help countries put their climate change targets into action.
4. Open, reliable information on global forest-risk commodity supply chains is needed to build trust on both sides of the trade.
The complexity and opacity of global supply chains has made it difficult to tackle deforestation in mainstream markets. For most commodities with deforestation risks, there’s simply no information to support action and policy implementation. Improving supply-chain transparency helps to hold global supply chain players – including producing and consuming governments – accountable to their commitments to deal with deforestation and risks linked to products in their supply chains.
5. Consensus on definitions and data is needed to track progress towards sustainability.
Agreed sustainability definitions and monitoring systems help authorities improve their governance of land and forests. By developing these indicators through multistakeholder consultation, trust and legitimacy are entrenched. Using simple and objective ways to verify sustainability performance, grounded in national laws and regulations, is a mutually beneficial approach for producer and consumer countries.
6. Nationally Determined Contributions offer opportunities raise the profile of forest and land-use governance.
The majority of tropical countries have integrated forests and agriculture into their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Robust and participatory NDC processes offer opportunities to address the drivers of deforestation by combining climate, aid and trade-related interventions, and raising the profile of forest and land use governance. Failing to address underlying governance drivers of deforestation puts the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change at risk.
7. Community forestry can improve livelihoods and achieve climate commitments.
Communities protect, manage, and use their forests in many ways. Some rely on logging and the timber trade to make a living. This trade needs to be economically viable and support livelihoods, while at the same time supporting sustainable management and protecting against deforestation. Legal timber production can unlock livelihood opportunities for vulnerable groups, while also reducing illegality, deforestation, and forest degradation.
8. Tracking investments in land-use helps to deploy resources for supporting forest and climate objectives.
Tropical forest countries can get valuable support from international public finance sources to help achieve their climate and forest goals, but these funds can’t meet the scale of investment needed. By presenting a transparent analysis of land-use investments and plans to improve the coherence of forest and climate-friendly spending, countries can attract private finance and make the case for more international support. There are opportunities to redirect the hundreds of billions spent annually on land-use activities around the world towards low emissions, without sacrificing productivity or economic development.
9. Socio-economic factors driving smallholder land-use decisions must be considered.
Smallholder farmers are central to the transition towards sustainable production, but they can’t invest in sustainable practices when they live in poverty and have limited access to finance. For change to happen at scale, initiatives offering financial incentives to smallholders must not only support the initial costs of agroforestry and replantation, but also provide opportunities to diversify their incomes. Understanding the economy of smallholders and the potential profitability of new production models is a prerequisite for transitioning towards more sustainable land-use practices.
10. Commodity and trade approaches provide a powerful lever for governance reform.
To address forest and land-use governance challenges, it’s useful to look to commodity and trade approaches like the EU’s Voluntary Partnership Agreements. There are lessons from the timber sector for creating the basis for zero-deforestation production and related trade. It’s essential to capitalise on initiatives that are effectively bringing visibility, support and competence to forest and land-use governance.
In the years ahead, we’ll continue to support countries to find innovative approaches and solutions to their land-use governance and development goals, and to find opportunities for dialogue and partnership. We look forward to sharing new lessons along this journey.