In Paris, 2015 finished with the achievement of an historic agreement between 195 countries to tackle the threat—and reality—of climate change. The main objective of the so-called Paris Agreement is to keep global temperature rises below 2°C while at the same time making significant efforts to limit the rise to no more than 1.5°. The Agreement will formally enter into force after 55 countries, accounting for at least 55% of global emissions, submit their greenhouse gas emissions reduction plans to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The Paris Agreement has a special significance for global forests and efforts to conserve biodiversity. By providing a framework to reward countries both for reductions in deforestation and expansion of sustainable forest management practices, the Paris Agreement finally recognizes the critical role that forests and biodiversity play in global efforts to reduce emissions—detail that was deliberately omitted from the Kyoto Protocol. This recognition will enable forests to play a central role in national strategies to tackle climate change. This momentum around the importance of forests and tackling drivers of deforestation has already led to an unprecedented level of international support to curb deforestation globally. For example, at the Paris conference Norway, Germany and the UK announced a combined commitment of USD 5 billion for efforts to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) sees these developments as heralding a significant new era of opportunity in efforts to reduce deforestation, conserve biodiversity and improve community livelihoods. The organization is supporting a number of community-based REDD+ pilot projects in countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Liberia, which are working to safeguard biodiversity and community well-being at the local level and drive sustainable natural resource management at the wider landscape level.
These pilot REDD+ projects are designed to provide access to a range of benefits that, combined, will create a resilient and sustainable model to finance climate, conservation and community development outcomes in a landscape. Conservation goals remain at the core of project design, and benefits derived from reducing carbon emissions are performance-based, contingent upon meeting agreed conservation objectives.
A key example of FFI's work in this context is the Wonegizi REDD+ pilot project in Zorzor District, Lofa County, Liberia. Here FFI is facilitating development of a participatory land-use plan, which covers Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area and the eleven communities that live within or just outside the forest. Local people and the government will act as co-managers of the soon to be gazetted 37,000 ha protected area. The REDD+ project is working to reduce agricultural drivers of deforestation by supporting the transition to more sustainable agricultural practices, as well as conserving the habitat of threatened species such as the western chimpanzee Pan troglodytes verus, forest elephant Loxodonta africana cyclotis, pygmy hippo Hexaprotodon liberiensis, sooty mangabey Cercocebus atys and white-necked rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus.
The importance of the Wonegizi REDD+ pilot has been recently recognized in the form of a NOK 40 million (c. USD 5 million) grant from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. Fauna & Flora International, with government counterparts from the Forest Development Authority, and local NGO partners Skills and Agricultural Development Services will continue efforts to secure benefit rights for local communities, operationalize forest management and protection through REDD+, and begin a programme to develop and diversify local, sustainable livelihoods over the next 5 years.