New data from IUCN, Climate Advisers and WWF reveals the huge potential that more effective and ambitious forest conservation and restoration could make in the fight to combat climate change.
If just 12 forest countries, including Brazil and Indonesia, meet their existing forest goals this would cut annual global climate emissions by 3.5 gigatonnes in 2020 – equivalent to the total annual emissions from India and Australia put together.
With additional ambition to achieve near zero forest loss by 2020 on top of existing goals, these countries could save nearly 5 gigatonnes a year in 2020 – equivalent to the emissions of the entire EU.
Will Ashley-Cantello, Chief Adviser on Forests at WWF said: “It is clear from the pledges currently on the table in Paris that more emissions savings are needed to avoid dangerous climate change. New partnerships to conserve forests – which come with huge environmental, economic and social benefits – could be the answer.
“It’s therefore vital that the climate finance pledges and the final Paris agreement give forest nations the necessary long-term support to press ahead with, and extend, their conservation and restoration plans.
”Recently we’ve seen exciting new partnerships announced to work together to reduce deforestation, like Colombia’s deal with the governments of UK, Norway and Germany. But more partnerships between forest nations, donor nations, and businesses are needed to raise ambition and deliver targets earlier.”
In the run up to the Paris climate change talks, dozens of countries included action on forests in the national plans they submitted – known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. Today’s report analyses the targets of 12 countries – Brazil, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Indonesia, Mexico, Nepal, Paraguay, Peru, Tanzania – that are home to nearly half the world’s tropical forests.
Michael Wolosin, Managing Director of Research and Policy, Climate Advisers and a co-author of the analysis said:
“Forests illustrate a key point: that developing countries are willing to do more than their fair share if they get help. The Paris agreement needs to be designed in a way that advances these partnerships. First and foremost, that means an ambitious agreement with updates every five years. But it also means an approach to mitigation finance that focuses on the outcome – tons of emissions – rather than just dollars.”
The vital role of local and regional action to protect forests was further highlighted this week as WWF welcomed plans by the state government of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon, to create a new 155,000 ha protected area in 2016. This will add to the system of protected areas and indigenous lands in Acre that already cover almost 50% of the state’s territory. The news comes at a time when the creation of new protected areas in the Amazon by the Brazilian national government has all but ground to a halt, and illustrates how forward-looking regional administrations can drive progress at sub-national level.
WWF’s Sky Rainforest Rescue project manager Sarah Hutchison said: “Acre’s government clearly understands that only with the coordinated action between state and national agencies can the state conserve its irreplaceable forest, the vast diversity of species and the essential ecosystem services it supports. In taking bold conservation measures now, it shows the way for local and regional administrations around the world.”
At the Paris climate talks on the 7th December, the states of Acre, Mato Grosso and Brazil’s national Environment Ministry announced their ambition to join forces to eliminate all illegal deforestation in these two Amazonian states by 2020, an ambition that Acre’s Governor Tiao Viana would like to achieve even earlier, in just three years’ time.
The need for more ambitious action on forests is clear, given that countries at the Paris talks are increasingly considering an overall goal of limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5C. The existing UN goal of keeping the temperature rise to below 2C already presents a major challenge – with estimates suggesting that current pledges would still lead to a 2.7C rise by end of the century.
If achieved, the deforestation reduction and restoration goals of the 12 countries studied would save an area of forest more than twice the size of Spain between now and 2030 (108 million hectares). Additional ambition to bring deforestation to near zero by 2020 would expand the forest area saved to nearly two Spains plus France (160 million hectares). This would help protect global biodiversity and benefit the hundreds of millions of people, including many of the world’s poorest, who depend on forests.
Previous research – for example the Stern review and more recently the New Climate Economy reports – has shown that not only is protecting forests and restoring forest landscapes cost-effective but it has strong economic benefits.
The World’s Top Cities for Owning a Green Home
Demand for green homes has risen sharply in recent years. Dodge Data & Analytics’ SmartMarket Report stated that over half of homebuilders project that 60% or more of the homes they build will be green within the next three years.
While the outlook for green home is surging throughout the world, growth is far from uniform. The outlook in some cities remains much stronger than others. Here are some of the best cities in the world for building or buying a green home.
Vancouver has a population of nearly 650,000 people. It has a surprisingly low levels of pollution for a city its size. According to research from Siemens, air quality is significantly better than most other communities of the same size. The city government has expressed a desire to improve air quality and reduce CO2 emissions even further. They expect to cut air pollution by 30% by 2020. Many people in the community have green homes and the government is likely to offer new incentives for green homes in the future.
Philadelphia is rated as the best city in the United States to own a green home. Within a 12-month period, over one in three homes that were sold were environmentally friendly. Demand for green homes in Philadelphia is higher than other homes. The average green home costs 45% more than homes that lack green features.
Australia has begun making substantial progress on the green energy front in recent years. According to one company that offers house and land for sale near Townsville, a growing number of houses are built around sustainability.
Brazil is not known for its commitment to green energy. The city of Curitiba is an exception. Despite being surrounded by communities that lack its vision of a green renaissance, the Siemens report shows that the city is outperforming the global green living index.
Some indexes rank the city even higher. Grist ranks it as the third greenest city on earth.
“As a whole, the green urban areas in Curitiba are among the largest in the world and every inhabitant of the city has approximately 52 m² of nature to romp about in. Brazil’s green capital makes a tremendous effort to preserve the city’s natural environment and is regarded by many as one of the world’s best examples of green urban planning.”
When most people picture Boston, they usually envision a city filled with smog. This stereotype arises among people that have visited the city off and on over the last 50 years. However, it has made tremendous progress over the past decade and has started to become one of the greenest cities in the United States.
The changes are being driven in Fenway. This is one of the least developed areas of the city, so most new construction is focused on creating green building structures. Older parts of the city have existing housing, which is often decades old. After these buildings need to be replaced, the city will try to focus on green initiatives. This will help the city receive even more attention as a green city.
Denmark as a whole is an incredibly green country. Few people own cars and homes are minimalistic, which reduces CO2 emissions. Copenhagen leads the charge in the country’s commitment to green living, so it is rated as the cleanest city in all of Europe.
Copenhagen hasn’t needed to make nearly as much effort to earn this title as most other cities, largely due to the culture that rejects decadence and embraces sustainability. Citizens have coordinated with the government to boost green living, but most of these conditions are driven by free market ideals. They haven’t needed to rely nearly as extensively on central planning as San Francisco and other Western cities.
Cultural Nodes Are Driving the Green Housing Market
Some of the largest cities in the world are embracing a cosmopolitan view that encourages green living. This is propelling demand for green housing in their areas and the rest of the world. People that want to buy a green home should consider investing in one of these areas.
China Unexpectedly Emerging as Global Leader in Green Technology
In the late 20th century, China underwent an amazing industrial revolution. However, in the process, it produced far more pollution, which raised concerns about global warming. The United Nations Environmental Council placed a lot of pressure on China to reduce its carbon footprint. It is clearly making headway now and may actually be a shining example for the rest of the world to follow.
China is Taking Environmental Concerns More Seriously than Ever Before
In recent years, China has made tremendous progress. In 2014, the World Bank praised the Chinese government for integrating forest development, biodiversity conservation and carbon reduction strategies. According to the World Bank analysis, china increased its forest cover by nearly 50% between the late 1980s and 2005. While analysts stated that those levels were still significantly below the global average, they stated that China is clearly headed in the right direction.
“China has long been a forest-poor country. Though its forest cover increased from 13 percent in the 1980s to 18.2 percent by 2005 thanks to an extensive plantations program, the hectare per capita of 0.13 remained significantly below the world average of 0.6. With rapid economic growth, China’s forests came under intense pressure due to the growing demand for timber and pulpwood. The logging ban introduced by the government in 1998 further aggravated the wood shortage. This challenge was more acute in Guangxi, where combined with weak forest resources protection resulted in a threat to its unique biodiversity including one of the largest and most important representatives of karst ecosystem in the world.”
The government’s policies to improve forest area and reduce carbon emissions are highly encouraging, but their new focus on green energy is even more impressive. In May, Premier Li Keqiang announced that the country is tapering steel production and relying less on coal-powered electricity. They have made substantial investments in wind and energy power, which are beginning to make a difference all over the world. They are also investing more heavily in solar. In fact, they developed the world’s largest floating solar plant.
Many environmental experts feel that the country has gone from being one of the worst contributors to climate change to a shining role model in the quest to save the environment.
What drove China to make these changes? The biggest incentive was the need to save it so when people from pollution. National Geographic reports that approximately 1.1 million people die from air pollution in China every year. The government needed to institute massive changes to reverse this epidemic.
Additional progress it is still needed
Nations around the world should applaud China for making such revolutionary changes to save its own citizens in the rest of the world. However, the country still needs to implement more changes to set itself on the right track.
The government has passed a number of regulations to improve air quality. However, many businesses have been reluctant to follow them.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection surveyed nearly 20,000 companies across northern China. They found that 70% of those companies or nearly 14,000 failed to meet environmental standards.
Some of the violations were fairly benign and easy to rectify. Others were far more severe. According to the report, which was published on a state new site, nearly 5,000 companies were operating in on off the rise locations or fail to secure the right environmental permits. The ministry of environmental protection states that stricter enforcement is necessary.
Despite the fact there are still areas for improvement, China is still headed in the right direction. It simply needs to examine some of the ongoing challenges and find new ways to save money.
China May Lead the World in the Fight Against Climate Change
Li Keqiang and other Chinese officials are taking environmental concerns far more seriously than their predecessors. The country is expected to roll out new policies in the future and may be one of the global leaders in the fight against climate change.
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