As we enter another summer of record heat and news of accelerating climate change, there are also signs of hope. They’re coming not from the big players gearing up for the Paris climate talks, but from states and provinces around the world, mostly in tropical forest countries, already doing the hard work of stopping climate change and building resilient, sustainable communities.
These leaders come from places like Indonesia, Brazil, and Mexico, whose lush forests are critical to slowing climate change, and where deforestation, if unchecked, is a major threat to climate stability. Many of them have already committed to reduce 80 percent of deforestation-related emissions by 2020 under the Rio Branco Declaration. They will gather next week for the annual meeting of the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF Task Force) in Barcelona to enlist more partners, and more funding, for these critical efforts.
For these tropical states and provinces, sustainable forests and agriculture are the key to development, especially in the face of extreme weather. They are pioneering pathways to a green, fair, emissions-reducing economy, and they are making steady progress.
So yes, we need an international climate agreement in Paris. But that’s not all we need. Today, we look to the state and provincial governments who are already leading the way, learn from them, and bring the lessons they represent to the national decision makers gathering in Paris at the end of this year.
We look to Central Kalimantan (Indonesia), where Governor Teras Narang has launched a roadmap (in partnership with indigenous communities) to low-emissions development and is working with palm oil companies to create sustainable sourcing strategies at jurisdictional scale.
We look to Mexico, where Chiapas and Campeche are leading an effort to reduce deforestation and promote low-emissions rural development in partnership with NGOs and the federal government. And we look to Mato Grosso, Brazil, where a robust multi-stakeholder dialogue is underway that brings government, civil society, and soy producers together in a historic effort to make climate-smart agriculture a reality and build on that state’s already remarkable record in reducing deforestation.
These innovations are taking root in a world of rising pressures on land use – driven by growing demand for food and natural resources – and spring directly from the need to reduce deforestation and build viable pathways to forest-maintaining rural development. The twin interrelated crises of climate change and land use, which feed on each other, together pose what is arguably the greatest challenge facing the effort to secure a sustainable and just society for the future.
GCF member states show us how to develop and bring together the laws, policies, programs, institutions, and network of civil society partners needed to create durable frameworks for making low emissions development happen on the ground. These jurisdictional programs are the critical pathways to and pillars of robust national programs.
The value of the jurisdictional approach is manifest in the remarkable innovations and strong record of performance in GCF states and provinces, and in their willingness to step up and do more than their part in the effort to reduce carbon pollution, protect forests, and enhance livelihoods. Their commitments, embodied in the Rio Branco Declaration, the Under2MOU, and the recently signed Carta de Cuiaba offer powerful signals of hope and action in a world that needs both.
But we need to make their voices louder. We need to work harder to show the world not only what states and provinces are doing, but what they can do if they get the support they need and deserve. Most of the international funding dedicated to reducing emissions from land use and deforestation has not made it down to states and provinces, even though they are doing most of the work and the source of so much of the important policy innovations. It is time for the international community to step up and give these states and provinces the support they need to continue the crucial work they are doing.
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