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Forests and climate

Aerial view of the rainforest in the Amazon National Park

Forests are veritable treasure troves of nature. They provide food, water, raw materials for building and other purposes, fuel and medicinal plants – and living space for more than 1.6 billion people. They are also home to a very large proportion of all known animal and plant species. The "lungs of the world", as forests are sometimes known, produce oxygen, bind harmful carbon dioxide and thus have a decisive influence on the world’s climate. They store water and help regulate temperature and rainfall. In short, forests are vital to the survival of humankind.

But every year, more than 7 million hectares of forest are lost – mainly in tropical areas. That is an area the same size as Bavaria. It is true that, thanks in part to the efforts of the international community, forest loss has slowed since the 1990s. However, given the importance of forests for the environment and the climate, there is still cause for concern. A major share of deforestation is caused by clearance for agricultural use and by international supply chains – including for products consumed in Germany.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), deforestation alone accounts for 11 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change mitigation and forest conservation must therefore go hand in hand. The goal of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, or even 1.5 degrees if possible, can only be achieved if forest loss is halted.

Infographic on the topic of "Forests and climate"
German activities

Protection and sustainable management of forests

The BMZ has long been committed to international forest protection endeavours and is among the world’s largest donors in this field. It focuses in particular on strategies for combining forest conservation with sustainable forest use. This is because deforestation through logging, agriculture and the overexploitation of natural resources is usually driven by economic factors. The only way to preserve forests in the long term is by finding other ways to use them, offering reasonable alternatives for the rural population to make a living and getting the global agricultural industry involved in the process.

The BMZ is currently providing roughly two billion euros for more than 200 forest initiatives in over 30 countries and ten regions, including programmes in the three major "green lungs" of our planet: the Amazon basin, the Congo basin and Indonesia. Support focuses on creating new forests and on ensuring the protection and sustainable use of existing forests with a view to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD+) and protecting biodiversity. The BMZ is also extending its activities to other strategic areas, e.g. restoring forest landscapes and establishing deforestation-free supply chains so that no forests are destroyed for the cultivation of raw materials.

Borneo resident in traditional clothes in a boat in the Borneo jungle. Alternative tourism will serve as a source of income to stop the deforestation of virgin forest for palm oil plantations.

Rewards for forest conservation

For some years now, the international community has been pursuing the REDD+ approach, which links forest and biodiversity conservation with climate change mitigation. REDD+ stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation. The + refers to the conservation of existing and the creation of new forests.

The basic principle behind REDD+ is that governments and local communities are rewarded for avoided deforestation and for verifiable reductions in emissions. The REDD+ framework was negotiated over many years as part of the climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and reaffirmed in a separate article of the Paris Agreement. Reforestation and improved forest management are also rewarded since they enhance the forest’s carbon storage function.

However, concrete proof of ecosystem services in the form of measurably reduced deforestation is required before any payments are made. This requires a monitoring and accounting system. Germany is helping many countries to introduce such systems, for example via the multilateral Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).

The BMZ is the largest donor to the FCPF. Of the total amount of 1.4 billion dollars committed so far, some 350 million euros comes from the BMZ’s budget and 10 million euros from the budget of the German Environment Ministry (BMU). The FCPF is helping almost 50 countries lay the foundations for REDD+. Through its Carbon Fund it can make payments for verified emission reductions that are the result of avoided deforestation. It can also pave the way for possible REDD+ financing through the Green Climate Fund (GCF). In addition, the Facility operates as a learning platform and sets benchmarks for global quality standards for results-based financing.

Forests and climate

BMZ publications

International cooperation on forest protection

In order to better achieve forest protection goals, Germany cooperates closely with European governments and international partners. Cooperation with the governments of Norway and the UK (Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, GNU) is particularly important in this context. The three governments are working together to deliver on their commitment made at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to provide 5 billion US dollars for REDD+ for the period 2015 to 2020.

Part of the funding will go to the REDD Early Movers (REM) programme. With REM, Germany has created a flagship project: countries are rewarded financially if they successfully limit deforestation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some 70 per cent of the payments goes to indigenous peoples and local communities. The outcome: so far, the GNU countries have made compensation payments for some 16 million tons of carbon dioxide through the REM scheme. That is equivalent to the annual emissions of almost 20 per cent of all cars in Germany.

Two employees of a mangrove tree nursery in Beira, Mozambique, inspect the seedlings.

Forest restoration

In addition to the conservation of existing forests, Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR), i.e. the rehabilitation of deforested or degraded forests into wooded and productive landscapes also plays a significant part in mitigating global greenhouse gas emissions.

The African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) was therefore launched at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference by the BMZ in cooperation with the African Union’s development programme NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), the World Bank and the World Resources Institute (WRI). Its goal is to restore some 100 million hectares of forest land in Africa by 2030. So far 27 African countries have announced their intention to join the scheme: Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. Together they plan to restore some 111 million hectares of forested land.

German assistance is being used, for example to help the AFR100 secretariat and a number of African countries implement these ambitious goals. Through German development cooperation, support is also being provided to foster networking with potential investors and donors and encourage exchange amongst the AFR100 partner countries. The initiative also has the support of international donors such as the World Bank, private companies and non-governmental organisations.

A tree trunk overgrown with moss and marked with colour

International agreements

AFR100 fits in with important international agreements on the restoration of forest landscapes. In 2011, the international community pledged in the Bonn Challenge to restore 150 million hectares of degraded forest by 2020. In the New York Declaration on Forests of 2014 this target was increased: the current goal is to restore 350 million hectares of forest – an area almost the size of India – by 2030. In New York, the international community also agreed on the goal to halve global deforestation by 2020 and to stop it completely by 2030. The German government explicitly supports both agreements. The Federal Ministries for Development and for the Environment (BMZ and BMU) are working hand in hand in this field.

The approach taken by the Forest Landscape Restoration initiatives supported by the BMZ is to look at wider landscapes and how their resources can be used. The aim is to reconcile the goals of reforestation, food security and rural development. Partner countries receive support to help them establish reforestation goals in their national strategies and implement them. The BMZ is especially committed to ensuring that legal and institutional frameworks are improved and that the people affected are involved in national planning processes. Only then will the measures be sustainable.

Sorting of wood veneers for furniture production

Deforestation-free supply chains

Wood production is not the only driver of tropical deforestation; agriculture accounts for as much as 80 per cent of forest losses in the tropics. A fact often overlooked is that rainforests are not the only forest eco-systems destroyed by agricultural activity; the dry forests and savannahs of South America, for example, are also affected.

The worst drivers of global deforestation are palm oil, soy and timber production, and cattle farming. But forests are also slashed to make room for cocoa, coffee, rubber and sugar cane plantations. These commodities reach Germany via international supply chains as raw materials or in the form of processed products. This shows that German consumers, too, have a responsibility for forests and for the global climate.

This being so, the BMZ is committed to achieving deforestation-free supply chains. The aim of these efforts is to ensure that forests and other eco-systems deserving protection are not degraded, or even destroyed entirely, for the sake of agricultural production.

The right frameworks need to be put in place along global supply chains so that sustainable and deforestation-free production processes, reliable traceability systems and modern monitoring systems for protecting forests in production regions are supported.

Palm oil fruits in Indonesia

Support from the BMZ

In recent years, more and more international companies have committed to stop deforestation and make their production deforestation-free. The BMZ is supporting these activities at various levels.

  • In Germany and Europe, the BMZ offers consumers information on deforestation-free supply chains.
  • The BMZ is working to bring about changes with a view to increasing the market share of sustainable and deforestation-free products in Germany, for example through multi-actor partnerships such as the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa, or via sustainability standards in the EU’s free trade agreements.
  • The BMZ is providing support in selected agricultural regions of Indonesia and Côte d’Ivoire to help make production in these regions sustainable and deforestation-free. In these "sustainable regions", forests may no longer be destroyed for agricultural cultivation purposes, these regions are expected to engage in the reforestation of production areas in cooperation with the private sector, and production processes for agricultural commodities must be transparent and traceable.

 The aim is that, in the next few years, German companies with global operations will be offering products on the German market that are 100 per cent traceable and deforestation-free.

Unloading of tropical timber in the port of Jakarta, Indonesia

Creating incentives for "going green"

The tremendous biodiversity and wealth of natural resources in Latin America is more and more threatened by human activities such as slashing of forests for crops or for grazing land.

The financial sector can provide incentives for moving to a more ecological approach. That is why KfW, on behalf of the BMZ, founded the eco.business Fund in late 2014, together with the fund manager Finance-in-Motion and the NGO Conservation International.

The innovative structure of the Fund means that public funding can be used to eliminate market barriers and mobilise additional private funding for measures to conserve natural resources.

The eco.business Fund enables companies and cooperatives in Latin America and the Caribbean to make investments that promote biodiversity conservation or the sustainable use of natural resources.

In 2016, KfW decided to make an equity capital investment in the Fund worth more than 22 million euros in order to meet the growing demand. Together, the fund manager and KfW got other investors on board, such as the Dutch FMO, the European Union, ASN Bank and GLS Bank.

The eco.business Fund assists companies in Latin America and in the Caribbean that operate in a sustainable manner in tapping into new markets in Europe and the US. By 2019, 1.2 million hectares of ecologically valuable land are to be protected and used sustainably. In addition, 600 companies are to receive support so that 288,000 jobs can be created or maintained.

Mango sellers in Çuenca, Ecuador
  • Rainforest in Brazil
    Brazil: Cooperation in action

    Rewarding forest conservation pioneers

    The Brazilian state of Acre has in recent years steadily developed the instruments that are needed to protect its forests and has implemented them in state legislation. And its efforts have been successful: since 2006 the deforestation rate has been declining.

  • indonesien palmoel 1920
    Indonesia: Cooperation in action

    Improving understanding of "green" forestry

    Indonesia has some of the world’s largest areas of rainforest. However, about a million hectares are destroyed each year, mainly in order to extend palm oil plantations.

  • Cocoa fruits on a plantation
    Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia: Cooperation in action

    Deforestation-free supply chains

    The West African country of Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s biggest cocoa producer and the main supplier of this most important ingredient for the manufacture of chocolate in Germany. However, as much as three million hectares of West African rainforest have been destroyed so that cocoa can be produced.

  • Rainforest in Togo
    Togo: Cooperation in action

    Sustainable forestry

    For many years, the West African country of Togo had the highest deforestation rate in Africa In 2010, its forest area had dwindled to an estimated six per cent of the country’s surface area.

  • Rainforest in Laos
    Laos: Cooperation in action

    Responsible use of tropical forests

    For generations, forests have served as a source of food and income for the people of Khangkao, a mountain village in the North of Laos. They provide wood for construction and for fuel, and mushrooms, roots and medicinal plants.

Rainforest in Brazil
Brazil: Cooperation in action

REDD Early Movers: Rewarding forest conservation pioneers

The Brazilian state of Acre is leading the way as an Early Mover in the REDD+ programme, the international forest conservation scheme that was launched in 2005.

The Acre state government has in recent years steadily developed the instruments that are needed to protect its forests and has implemented them in state legislation. And its efforts have been successful: since 2006 the deforestation rate has been declining. Acre has now cut the rate of deforestation by 60 per cent, and in 2017 the state accounted for only around four per cent of all logging in the entire Brazilian Amazon region.

The REDD Early Movers programme (REM) makes payments to pioneers, such as the Brazilian state of Acre, for a verified reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. A detailed accounting system is used to record and reward successes in avoiding deforestation.

A total of 25 million euros has already been paid to the Brazilian state from the German government’s Special Energy and Climate Fund and from the International Climate Initiative. Thanks to contributions from Germany and the UK, another 30 million euros for results-based payments is ready for disbursement. Most payments go directly to smallholders, local forest communities and indigenous people; the remainder is invested in government measures to conserve forests and reduce deforestation. Local people are therefore among the beneficiaries of this particular form of benefit-sharing.

However, the increase in the deforestation rate in Brazil in 2016 is a reminder that fighting deforestation does not happen by itself but requires continued efforts.

indonesien palmoel 1920
Indonesia: Cooperation in action

Improving understanding of "green" forestry

Indonesia has some of the world’s largest areas of rainforest. However, about a million hectares are destroyed each year, mainly in order to extend palm oil plantations.

 One of the aims of the FORCLIME (Forests and Climate Change) programme, which is being implemented jointly with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry under German development cooperation, is to help create the legal and institutional environment for a change in mindset.

In addition to the revision of policies, laws and guidelines, the programme plans to set up forestry offices based on the German model. These offices are put in charge of a particular area of forest and have to involve local people, the private sector and non-governmental organisations in managing it sustainably. Training for the staff of forest agencies creates the basis for the application of "green" forestry principles. Support is also being provided to private forestry businesses that manage forested areas in accordance with international certification standards. Overall, the aim of FORCLIME is to increase understanding of what is meant by sustainable forest management.

Indonesia now has 590 new forest offices with responsibility for almost 100 million hectares of forest, which adds up to 80 per cent of the country’s state forest (as at December 2016). All state forests are due to be incorporated into the forest office system by 2020. In three districts, forestry authorities are working with the local population to implement pilot REDD+ projects covering some 380,000 hectares of forest. With funding of about 84 million euros, FORCLIME is one of the largest externally financed forest conservation and biodiversity programmes in Indonesia.

Cocoa fruits on a plantation
Côte d’Ivoire and Indonesia: Cooperation in action

Deforestation-free supply chains

The West African country of Côte d’Ivoire is the world’s biggest cocoa producer and the main supplier of this most important ingredient for the manufacture of chocolate in Germany. However, as much as three million hectares of West African rainforest have been destroyed so that cocoa can be produced – people in Germany consume almost ten kilogrammes of chocolate per person per year.

Deforestation is a far-reaching problem and cannot be halted by individual actors. That is why the BMZ is assisting the Ivorian region of San Pedro in setting up multi-actor platforms. The aim is to develop joint solutions to stop deforestation and increase the tree population in cooperation with the private sector. When developing "deforestation-free" production areas, land use planning and mapping the areas that are especially valuable and in need of protection play a pivotal role. The BMZ is providing support for both activities.

Through reforestation activities, carried out in cooperation with companies and small farmers, cocoa cultivation is being integrated into an agroforestry system and production is being made more environmentally sustainable. This creates opportunities for farmers to sell timber, which is an important incentive for them. Actors from the palm oil sector and from rubber cultivation are also included in these efforts.

Indonesia

In addition to making forest authorities more efficient, there also needs to be a change in mindset in the agricultural sector to halt ongoing deforestation. For instance, all major palm oil companies have now made zero-deforestation commitments. However, implementing these commitments is a complex and time-consuming task because of complex supply chains, the local political situation, the involvement of civil society and supply networks.

That is why the deforestation-free supply chain approach supported by the BMZ targets several levels. Kapuas Hulu, a district in the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan, was chosen as the partner region. This region is a "deforestation hot spot" where export crops such as palm oil and natural rubber are cultivated, but it is also home to extensive natural forests and vast peat bogs. In 2017, a declaration of intent was signed with the district authority on promoting measures to support verifiably sustainable agricultural supply chains and forest conservation. A steering committee, consisting of authorities, private businesses and civil society, is being established that will oversee the creation of a sustainability-based procurement region.

Measures are being developed in cooperation with the local planning and forest authorities with a view to integrating the internationally recognised protection approaches for high carbon stock areas and high conservation value areas into land use planning. Extensive mapping of these areas is currently under preparation.

Rainforest in Togo
Togo: Cooperation in action

Sustainable forestry

For many years, the West African country of Togo had the highest deforestation rate in Africa In 2010, its forest area had dwindled to an estimated six per cent of the country’s surface area.

But in 2014, the government set itself the goal of increasing forest areas to 30 per cent of the country’s surface area by 2050 by managing forest resources sustainably. Therefore, it joined the REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and started the preparatory phase ("readiness").

Since 2014, the German programme to support and restore forests in Togo (REDD+ Readiness, ProREDD) has been working with its Togolese partner, the Ministry for the Environment and Forest Resources, to improve the technical and institutional conditions for implementing the national REDD+ strategy.

Thanks to the first national carbon inventory in Togo carried out in 2016, reliable quantitative and qualitative data on the country’s forest resources are now available for the first time. These data form the basis for further political, strategic and technical processes. The efforts focus on managing the existing forests in a sustainable manner, so they can be used long term to help fight poverty and in order to further expand the country’s carbon sinks.

In 2017, for example, roughly 450,000 hectares of forest were brought under sustainable management with support from the ProREDD project. That is about eight per cent of the country’s surface area (the equivalent of more than 600,000 football pitches). This work was mainly done under a FLR measure (Forest Landscape Restoration).

Rainforest in Laos
Laos: Cooperation in action

Responsible use of tropical forests

For generations, forests have served as a source of food and income for the people of Khangkao, a mountain village in the North of Laos. They provide wood for construction and for fuel, and mushrooms, roots and medicinal plants.

Yet, more and more areas of forest in Khangkao are being slashed and burnt so that the steep slopes can be used to grow dry rice or maize. The growing international demand for maize is increasing this trend and also causing over-cultivation of large tracts of land.

Forests are not just an important basis for people’s livelihoods in villages such as Khangkao, they also play a central role in international climate protection, serving as carbon sinks and thereby lessening the impact of the global greenhouse effect.

Climate protection through forest conservation

This is where the project "Climate Protection through Avoided Deforestation” comes in: the inhabitants of Khangkao are developing a plan for the conservation of the forest and for its sustainable use. The project is intended to pave the way for results-based payments within the framework of REDD+. (REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.) The basic idea behind REDD+ is to compensate governments and local communities for avoided deforestation and to verifiably reduce emissions. In October 2015, Laos was included in the World Bank’s multilateral Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), set up for this purpose.

The goal of the project in Khangkao is to improve the economic situation of the villagers through income generated by sustainable forest management and by providing technical and financial support, so that they will no longer need to keep expanding their traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practices into secondary forest.

The villagers are closely involved in the implementation of the project. The possibilities and risks of forest use were explained to them at the outset. In a second step, they analysed the different types of forest and their uses. The project participants used the resulting findings to develop a forest management plan.

Forest management contracts between the district government and the villagers now ensure that they receive financial support in exchange for promoting forest conservation and sustainable forest-use practices. Their contributions include demarcating borders, pruning trees and taking responsibility for fire management.

The aim is to enable the regeneration of damaged forests so they can be used sustainably into the future. The project is also helping villagers to tap into alternative sources of income, e.g. through diversification, niche products and climate-friendly increases in agricultural production, and animal husbandry. The villagers receive funding and technical support from village development funds.

70 villages supported

The project is successful as the village people benefit from the changes that have been made, and international climate instruments like REDD+ are being used. This means that Khangkao will still be able to receive funds for forest conservation even after the German project has ended.

The project is promoting the long-term, sustainable development of 70 villages in two districts in northern Laos and making an important contribution to international climate protection in accordance with the Paris Agreement.

Rainforest in Laos

Videos on the topic "Forests and climate"

Functions of forests

Tropical rainforest in 360 degrees

The 360-degree film shows how forests are critically important for mitigating climate change, maintaining water supplies, safeguarding biodiversity, and protecting human health. It presents people who live in forested regions and who are dependent on forest resources for their livelihoods and it shows the commitment of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in the forest area.

Please note that the 360-degree-functionality is not available for users browsing with Internet Explorer version 11 or below.)

Forest protection

REDD+: why Germany is involved

REDD+ is a strategy for climate protection through avoided deforestation. This animated film by the BMZ explains how REDD+ works, it shows why forest protection is extremely important and why Germany is involved.

Conservation des forêts

Pourquoi l’Allemagne s’engage dans l’initiative REDD+

REDD+ est un concept de protection du climat par la conservation des forêts. Ce film d'animation du BMZ explique clairement le fonctionnement de REDD+, pourquoi la conservation des forêts est si importante et pourquoi l'Allemagne s’y engage.

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) in a nutshell

The short movie "FLR in a nutshell" describes the Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR) approach, which aims to restore tree-rich landscapes and forests in an sustainable way.

Restauration des paysages forestieres (RPF) en bref

Le film "RPF en bref" explique l'approche de restauration des paysages forestieres (RPF), qui vise à restaurer de manière durable des paysages riches en arbres et des fôrets.

Forest management

Protecting forests and using them sustainably

Climate change shows how important it is to use global resources responsibly. Forests are a good example: managing them sustainably enables us to preserve them and benefit from them at the same time.

Alternative forms of forest management

Sustainable management of tropical forests

In order to protect the rainforest, the BMZ works with people who depend on the forest for their livelihoods, helping them to develop alternative management methods so that they can plant crops of good quality without having to cut down more forest.

Forest protection

The future we want needs forests

The forest is shrinking by 35 football pitches per minute. This has serious consequences for all of us. That is why the German government and 180 other governments and non-governmental organisations want to completely prevent the clearing of forest areas by 2030. (Video in German)

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