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The term ‘tipping point’ has been used to describe the current state of affairs in the past few months on numerous occasions. From climate change to politics, society is being called into action by the fear of reaching a tipping point – a moment of sudden and irreversible change. Even deforestation isn’t exempt from the idea, with potential tipping points existing in both the global climate system and the health of tropical forests themselves (Nobre and Borma, 2009). Numerous civil society organizations (CSOs) brought this sense of urgency to the World Bank two weeks ago to discuss sustainable development issues of global concern.
Spring meetings provided cause for cautious optimism surrounding the growing recognition of the importance of forest ecosystems at the World Bank Group (WBG) — especially the critical role forests play in climate change mitigation & adaptation and poverty alleviation, as well as the non-carbon benefits provided by forests. Spring meetings featured several forest-focused events convened by both the World Bank and civil society, including a high level panel organized by the WBG entitled “Think Forests: Why Investing in Forests is the Next Big Thing.”
The WBG also published its Forest Action Plan (FAP) just in time for the spring meetings, after discussion by CODE (the Committee on Development Effectiveness) the week prior. The FAP will guide the WBG’s operations in the forest sector and beyond during FY2016-20. Although some questions remain regarding the implementation of the FAP and its level of ambition, the FAP is landmark in its inclusion not only of sustainable forestry operations, but also of “forest-smart” interventions designed to avoid deforestation in other sectors. The FAP additionally includes crosscutting critical themes of participation and rights, institutions and governance, and climate change and resilience.
Although a strong link exists between forests and climate change, speakers at the BIC-CI convened Civil Society Policy Forum panel “Forests at the WBG in a Post-Paris World” agreed that forests provide numerous other benefits, and are critical to the well-being and livelihoods of traditional communities. Although the prioritization of the broad range of benefits and services provided by forest is unclear, panelists indicated that forests should be fully integrated into WBG climate work, and central to analysis and decision-making processes for Country Partnership Frameworks and WBG operations. Several speakers also emphasized the importance of clarifying land tenure as a key enabling condition for forest conservation.
Audience members raised the issue of safeguards, and whether the proposed WB Environmental and Social Framework is sufficiently robust to promote forest conservation—especially in cases of corruption—in light of the shift of responsibility to borrower governments, and the elimination of a specific forest safeguard. Reference was also made to the Zero Deforestation Declaration proposed by civil society last year, as a missed opportunity to set a specific deforestation goal in the FAP. Finally, the issue of consistency between WBG work on forests and operations in other sectors was raised, with the example of a WBG fossil fuel financing project in Indonesia. Ultimately, some attendees declared the FAP to be business as usual with regard to forest engagement at the WBG. In response, WBG representatives asserted that the FAP is a game-changing approach to forests across sectors at the WBG.
Contact: Debbie Pierce, Forest Program Associate, Bank Information Center firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 624-0624