Recognizing the role of High Forest, Low Deforestation developing countries in delivering forest-based solutions to climate change

30th May 2019: With their large, intact forest ecosystems, High Forest, Low-Deforestation (HFLD) developing countries play an important role in global climate change mitigation and adaptation. The critical sequestration benefits of intact forests continuing to remove carbon from the atmosphere over time is clear. However, HFLDs have only attracted limited climate finance for forest conservation, while facing real and growing pressure from drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, such as agriculture and mining. Instead, the bulk of REDD+ financial support is directed to developing countries with a clear, historical trend of high rates of deforestation. While this REDD+ finance is absolutely critical for global climate change mitigation efforts, the time has come to acknowledge the unique dynamic faced by HFLDs and explore options to improve their access to climate finance.

To this end, the International Conference on Climate Finance for HFLD Countries was convened in Paramaribo, Suriname, 12-15 February 2019. The Government of Suriname, in collaboration with UNDP and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), hosted the event, attended by participants representing 15 developing countries (Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Gabon, DRC, Bhutan, Gabon, Guyana, Zambia, Bahamas, Fiji, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Malaysia, Seychelles); 6 developed countries (Norway, Italy, Canada, France, Korea and Finland), 5 UN agencies: UNDP, UN DESA (including UN Forum on Forests), UNICEF, UN Environment, and FAO, as well as 8 other regional and international organizations such as Wildlife Conservation Society and the Green Hope Foundation.

The conference issued a call for full recognition of the contribution of HFLD countries in the fight against climate change and explored existing funding mechanisms coupled with potential opportunities.

The conference kicked off with a rich discussion establishing a robust scientific basis for the role of HFLDs in meeting global climate change goals. Additionally, current treatment of HFLDs within the current context of climate finance and options to enhance that support were presented, countries shared their experiences and lessons learned on accessing climate finance.

Participants agreed that the contribution of HFLD countries to climate change, preserving the forests whilst pursuing development, is not currently recognized adequately by financial instruments and multilateral climate bodies. Country representatives expressed concern that the financial instruments currently available are limited and leave a fundamental finance gap for HFLD countries to achieve the goals set forth in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement. Many countries also raised concerns about the disconnect between the cost of reducing forest-related emissions and the prevalent international price of just $5 per tonne under current REDD+ RBP payment schemes.

The key result of the conference was the  ‘Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration, developed through discussions and negotiations among the HFLD countries in attendance.

Formally adopted on 14th February 2019, the Krutu of Paramaribo “articulates the desire of a group of HFLD countries to work together actively to break down barriers to accessing needed climate finance for the continued progress toward sustainable development goals, with concurrent care and protection for their essential intact forest ecosystems”. To do so, the Krutu calls for increasing cooperation among the HFLD developing countries through a platform for dialogue, coordination and facilitation.

The Declaration specifically invites the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to consider ways to improve and simplify access to funding for sustainable forest management as well as to continue and strengthen the dissemination of information on financing for sustainable forest management and capacity building to access the fund, in particular to HFLD developing countries. In formal statements, the GCF Board members from Nicaragua and Seychelles committed to raise the HFLD finance issue with the GCF Board. There was also an invitation to the United Nations system to support the follow-up from this conference within existing mandates and resources.

It was agreed that the Government of Suriname would continue to take the lead, bringing the Krutu of Paramaribo Joint Declaration to the attention of the international community in several upcoming meetings. Already, Suriname has been demonstrating this leadership, having convened the first meeting of the Platform and raising the issue of finance for HFLDs at the 14th session of the UN Forum on Forests, which took place 6-10 May in New York.

Development of financing structures and policies to better include HFLD countries and their forests in the global response to climate change is clearly needed. The global conference and the activity of the Platform since the conference is generating momentum for the global community to act. This momentum needs to be sustained as we look ahead to the Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September, where the importance of intact, stable forests and the contributions of HFLD countries to nature-based solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation will be prominent.