Addressing Climate Change: Why Forests Matter

November 12, 2017 |

Over 100 countries included actions related to land-use change and forests in their nationally determined contributions to fight climate change
The World Bank is supporting countries in their efforts to harness the potential of forests to reduce poverty, better integrate forests into their economies, and protect and strengthen the environmental role they play
Forest-focused initiatives in China, Mexico and Mozambique are showing positive results, but more is needed to accelerate climate action and deliver on the Paris Agreement

Forests cover nearly a third (31 percent) of the world’s land surface, just over 4 billion hectares. That’s the equivalent of Brazil, Canada, China, and the United States combined.

But forests don’t just span an enormous portion of our planet’s terrain, they also play a vital role in regulating the climate and are critical to addressing the impact of climate change.

Developing countries are expected to suffer the most from changes in climatic patterns. Higher temperatures, changes in precipitation, rising sea levels and increased frequency of weather-related disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires are creating immense challenges when it comes to agriculture, food, and water supplies. International and national discussions on forests and climate change have largely been focused on the value of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation and enhancing carbon stocks (REDD+). At its core, REDD+ aims to change incentive structures in favor of protecting forests.

Less obvious, yet equally important, is the role of forests in enhancing landscape resilience to climate change. Forests and trees provide environmental services ranging from increasing water quality and quantity to reducing soil erosion and creating micro-climatic conditions that maintain (or in some cases improve) productivity. The sustainable management of forests can also strengthen social resilience, by offering a diversification of revenue sources and product supplies, and building the capacity of local and national institutions.

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These country-driven initiatives are helping to move the needle in the right direction on keeping the global temperate increase within the 2-degree target and conserving forests, but more action is needed. Private sector commitment and action around deforestation free commodity supply chains will also be critical to conserve forest resources and reduce risks for businesses who rely on commodity supplies.

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It’s clear that forests are essential for the future we all want; for people, for economies, and for the health of a planet stressed by climate change and the depletion of natural resources. While there are still challenges when it comes to how climate and development targets will be met over the decades to come, these countries are showing that forests will be a vital part of the solution. 

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