WCS: What are WCS’s priorities at the summit?
Caleb McClennen: WCS has two priorities for the GCAS. One, communicating the importance of nature-based solutions, particularly Indigenous People's stewardship of intact forests, in meeting the global climate challenge.
And two, promoting our REDD+ projects in two forests—Makira,
Madagascar and Keo Seima, Cambodia.
WCS: What are the WCS events at the summit?
Caleb McClennen: WCS will be participating in a broad range of affiliate events in addition to the summit itself, but there are two in particular we're focused on:
panel discussion hosted by WCS and Natural Capital Partners (a top carbon
retailer/broker) at the Boston Consulting Group that will highlight the
role of forest carbon in corporate sustainability strategies. WCS will be
talking about how our experiences with REDD+ carbon sales in Madagascar
and Cambodia have provided an important source of revenue to ensure the protection
of globally important forests for biodiversity, and the transition to
UN-compliant international REDD+ finance.
- The reception with Nature 4 Climate, which is a new collective that includes many of the world’s leading environmental groups (including WCS) aiming to raise awareness of nature-based climate solutions,
a largely “forgotten solution”
to fight climate change.
WCS: What will WCS be announcing?
Caleb McClennen: Our major announcement will be the new finding that over a third of the world's last remaining intact forests—critical for meeting the two degree target I mentioned—are under the stewardship of Indigenous Peoples. Yet these landscapes are under-prioritized in current climate finance and policy. For example, only 21 of 131 tropical countries have commitments to expand Indigenous and local communities’ land tenure rights in their commitments under the Paris Agreement.
WCS: Why are intact forests important to addressing climate change?
Caleb McClennen: Two key reasons:
- Intact forests represent a massive stock of carbon (up to 10 years’ worth of all
human-generated emissions) that is being degraded at twice the rate of
deforestation (we have lost 9% in 16 years), risking increasingly severe
emissions just as we need to halt all forest degradation and loss.
- Intact forests serve an ongoing sink (or negative emissions) function absorbing up to 25% of carbon emissions annually as part of the “residual terrestrial sink.” This greatly slows the pace of climate change and it is essential that we preserve it.
WCS: Are intact forests threatened and why?
Caleb McClennen: Intact forests are mostly impacted by degradation from roads, agriculture, logging, mining and other unsustainable and poorly planned infrastructure.
WCS: What is the role of Indigenous communities in protecting intact forests?
Caleb McClennen: From our announcement this week, we now know Indigenous Peoples manage or own over four million square kilometers of intact forest. In addition, Indigenous Peoples have a proven track record of successful forest conservation. One study across the Amazon demonstrated a deforestation rate five times higher outside the jurisdiction of Indigenous Peoples versus inside.
WCS: What support do Indigenous communities need to protect the forests?
Currently, the role of Indigenous Peoples as stewards of our
planet’s great Forests is not adequately recognized in climate finance and
policy. We need to dramatically shift global attention towards the needs of
these communities and support Indigenous Peoples to secure tenure and management
rights, build capacity for effective land management, and directly support
implementation and financing of their management plans.
WCS: What are your hopes for the Global Action Climate Summit?
WCS has an important contribution to make towards global
efforts to meet the two degree Paris Agreement target. This Summit represents an
opportunity for us to demonstrate this commitment, through the work of the
dozens of country programs that directly support forest conservation, our REDD+
programs in Madagascar and Cambodia, and our global effort to stimulate new
investments and political commitments to secure the world's remaining intact forests, and in particular those that are central to the cultural, social and
economic well-being of Indigenous Peoples.