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Emissions 2020: Growing Investment in Forests

During New York Climate week this September, we had the opportunity to participate in the 2050 Pathways Strategy and Plans event put on by Climate Action Network – International, M2020, We Mean Business and The Stanley Foundation, which served as a space for practitioners in the climate change field to brainstorm novel solutions for reducing emissions. By combining practitioners from across the field, the event shook up some siloed thinking and got us excited about a potential new way to mobilize capital for forests.

For those of us who do Agriculture, Forestry, and Land Use (AFOLU) work, we know that forests are essential not only to reducing carbon emissions, but also to protecting biodiversity and human livelihoods. Afforestation, Reforestation, and Revegetation (ARR), in particular, is a component of forest protection that we’d like to see more of, because it starts to undo some of the damage of deforestation and also because new plant life sequesters more carbon as it grows. However, making forest restoration work at scale has been a challenge that has plagued our field for some time. The logic is there, the results for communities, climate and nature are there, but the financial incentives have not materialized at the scale necessary.

During this workshop, we made a novel connection that could provide a key new means to jump-starting more ARR projects and activities. In the fuel space, there is already a lot of talk about ‘stranded assets.’ Energy professionals are well aware of the threat of stranded assets, and many are invested in working to ensure that they pivot away from such investments. We wondered, what if a similar shift could be created in the landscape space? What if we talked about, say, monocrop agriculture as a potential ‘stranded asset’ under changing climate conditions? Such shifts in framing could provide powerful incentive for corporations and smaller companies to see risk in a new way, and adjust their investments accordingly.

Furthermore, in the energy world, there is a cadre of people increasingly invested in carbon capture and storage. We know we need massive investment in forest restoration, and forests are arguably the cheapest and most effective ‘technology’ for carbon capture and storage currently available. Framing ARR as carbon capture and storage may be one way to garner the kind of investment needed to make forest restoration work at scale.

There is still much work and refining to be done to bring these ideas to fruition, But we left the Emissions 2020 even impressed by the conversation and eager to do our part to move the needle on scaling up forest restoration and conservation. For our partners doing AFOLU and ARR work, we’re curious to hear what you think of these ideas. From those working with potential investors, we’re curious to know whether the framings presented above might be effective in shifting portfolios.

 

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