WCS at the Global Climate Action Summit

September 11, 2018

This week, leaders from around the world will be at the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco. According to WCS's Caleb McClennen, Vice President for Conservation Science and Solutions, the meeting is an important opportunity to drive non-state commitments (from corporations, philanthropies, and provincial and city governments, among others) to address climate change and accelerate action toward keeping the global average temperature rise below the two degrees Celsius target set in Paris. We spoke with him just prior to the event.

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:

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:

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?

Caleb McClennen: 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?

Caleb McClennen: 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.

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