Zero Deforestation at the World Bank: Development Finance Should Stand Against Forest Loss
Conserving forests is one of the most important climate change mitigation solutions, and is essential to addressing the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity. As many progressive governments and private sector actors make commitments to zero deforestation, a group of international civil society organizations are calling upon the World Bank Group and other development institutions to pledge to remove deforestation from its lending portfolio.
To position itself as a global leader in climate change and forest conservation, the World Bank Group should make a clear statement at COP21 which underscores the importance of forests in climate change and poverty alleviation, and signals an intention to commit to zero deforestation across the institution’s portfolio.
Such a commitment is a logical step, given the indispensable nature of forests to forest-dwelling people around the world. An estimated 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, which provide clean and abundant water, food and medicinal plants. Forests also support the agriculture of nearly half the population of the developing world and provide critical climate change mitigation and adaptation, which disproportionately impacts the world’s poorest people.
Halting deforestation will be necessary to put into practice the World Bank’s strong rhetoric on addressing climate change. Globally, emissions from deforestation and forest degradation generate 15-20% of global greenhouse gases, and undisturbed natural forests are net carbon sinks, storing 80% percent of the Earth’s aboveground and 40% of belowground terrestrial carbon. If all deforestation were halted tomorrow, the increased carbon sequestration in tropical forests would offset up to 38 percent of total annual greenhouse gas emissions.
A coalition of civil society organizations has proposed a Declaration on Zero Deforestation in International Finance and Development, which is formulated to apply any international financial institution or development agency. The declaration outlines ten goals, including commitments related to:
- Ending illegal deforestation
- Availability of finance to support existing international commitments related to forests
- Measurement and reporting of forest impacts
- Community management of forest resources and community land rights
- Zero financing of deforestation or degradation for a subset of sensitive forest habitats (including primary forests, high conservation value forests, and intact forest landscapes)
- Deforestation or degradation of other natural forests only in exceptional circumstances, and if compensated.
The coalition wrote an Open Letter to Dr Kim on COP21’s Forests Day to encourage him to make this vital commitment.