U.S., Britain, Norway Announce Coalition to Protect Tropical Forests

By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer

On the first day of President Biden’s Global Climate Summit, the United States, Britain, and Norway announced that they are teaming up with the world’s most influential companies to incentivize nations to protect tropical forests by mobilizing at least $1 billion this year for large-scale projects. Dubbed the “LEAF Coalition” (for Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance), its goal is to make healthy forests more economically valuable than goods like soy, palm oil, timber, and cattle, thereby investing in carbon sequestration and local communities’ economic health. Despite COVID-19, these crucial carbon sinks saw increased destruction globally, but now, on Earth Day, it’s high time to increase conservation.

Why This Matters: Tropical forests are one of the world’s largest carbon sinks and one of the most quickly deteriorating. Tropical forests boast some of the richest biodiversity on earth, but their destruction contributes to a biodiversity collapse. Tropical forests also hold an estimated 250 billion tons of carbon, the equivalent of 90 years’ worth of the world’s current carbon emissions. Deforestation not only releases millions of tons of carbon into the air, slashing our carbon budget, but it also damages the ability of forest systems to sequester carbon in the future.

Does Money Grow on Trees?

Although similar plans have been attempted before, this new initiative is unique because it brings private capital to the table, something many lower-income nations have been vying for on the international stage. Under the plan, countries, states, and provinces will make commitments to protect forests and submit annual or biannual results documenting emissions reductions. Satellite imaging will verify these submissions, and the coalition will then pay governments at least $10 per ton of reduced carbon dioxide. Companies including Amazon, Nestlé, Unilever, and Salesforce, and coalition governments will contribute to a pool of money that will be used for these incentives. The coalition has also promised to make the rights and sovereignty of Indigenous and forest communities a priority.

Protecting these forests may seem like a no-brainer, but some world leaders have been at odds over their conservation. President Biden previously suggested offering financial incentives to Brazil if the country made efforts to protect the Amazon, but Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro was insulted by the idea. Many tropical nations are also lower-income and rely on the export of natural resources, like lumber, to sustain their economy and recover from the pandemic. But this deforestation leaves Indigenous and forest communities with even fewer resources and more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Still, experts believe that this global partnership between the public and private sectors can get the job done. “The LEAF Coalition is a groundbreaking example of the scale and type of collaboration that is needed to fight the climate crisis and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050,” said White House Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry.

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