Governments can make better decisions if they are more aware how forest ecosystems contribute to their economy and employment, and how forests benefit human well-being. This information could provide all concerned ministries with the necessary knowledge to decide how tropical deforestation rates can be reduced as part of a transition to a green economy. This Discussion Forum provides an overview of recent forest economic valuations carried out in Zambia, Tanzania and Panama by the UN-REDD Programme. Besides presenting key findings of these studies, the panellists will demonstrate how the results have been or can be used by their respective government agencies – including by incorporating them in the development of national REDD+ Strategies.
REDD+ is an integral part of the discussions how to combat climate change during the UNFCCC climate negotiations. Forest economic valuation studies at national level can be an important tool for governments and other stakeholders to have a better understanding how forests contribute to their economy at present and what the impact deforestation has on it – both in terms values reflected and non-reflected. At the same time REDD+ will only be effective embedded in the broader economic development of a country. In all this, the Sustainable Development Goals can be an important point of orientation.
Key questions addressed:
- How can forest valuations influence governmental decision-making in favor of forest conservation? What kind of capacity building would be needed for governments to systematically introduce forest valuations?
- What is needed to introduce the aspect of forest valuation into the climate change negotiations?
- Should REDD+ strategies be routinely based on forest valuations? What kind of capacity building would be needed for governments to systematically introduce forest valuations?
Following an overview of the ongoing TEEB for Food and Agriculture study by Mr. Sukhdev, Mr. Makumba explained the benefits of forest ecosystems in Zambia, where forest covers 66% of land cover. The study was undertaken as part of the development of a national REDD+ strategy. Charcoal, and wood fuel use, timber production, infrastructure development (including mining) were all identified as the main drivers of deforestation in Zambia, where over 70% of the country depends on charcoal and wood for their energy supply.
The study concluded that direct and indirect values of forests considered as part of the study make a direct contribution equivalent to GDP of about 4.7% (6.3% of GDP with multiplier effects), alongside providing over a million jobs. The study will be a key tool in engaging various stakeholders in enhancing the understanding of the importance of forests to the national economy, as well as the goods and services they supply.
Mr. Nashanda described the situation in Tanzania, where forest covers 33.5 million hectares. Expansion of agricultural activities, wildfires and illegal logging were among the factors identified as drivers of deforestation in Tanzania.
The study concluded that there was no clear economic rationale for continuing the current levels of deforestation and that REDD+ results based finance could enable Tanzania to transition to a green, more resource efficient and low-carbon economy.
Mr. Gomez explained the economic importance of forests in Panama from different perspectives, such as to the Panama Canal and from the perspective of soil productivity. He provided conservative estimates that indicated that the Panama economy was losing roughly US$ 300 million per year from deforestation.
He elaborated on the opportunity that REDD+ creates for the country, as it will help break existing paradigms over perceptions of the forest, and help make it more visible and valuable.
All three speakers agreed that the forest ecosystem valuation studies were useful for the REDD+ policy process.