Building a Resilient Landscape Through Global Collaboration

While the challenges of climate change are undeniably global, politics and measures to actually solve them remain largely local. Last year’s Paris Agreement was a landmark moment for this issue. Now comes the difficult task of putting words and treaties into action.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress, set to begin in Honolulu this week, seeks to do just that. In order to be successful, it’s critical the delegates representing government, business, NGOs, the scientific community and indigenous people from more than 160 countries embrace not just the hard work ahead, but also the urgent need for meaningful collaboration.

Protecting our planet’s forests will be a significant topic of conversation – and one in which I am taking an active part. Deforestation is a top contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore climate change. Work to stop deforestation is often discussed in the context of countries like my own in Indonesia. Yet this is not only an issue for Indonesia. It must be understood as a global challenge.

I look forward to learning and hearing from my fellow delegates representing other nations. In turn, I plan to actively share insights we at Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP) have gained over the last four years of developing and implementing our Forest Conservation Policy. Three of our areas of greatest learning are around the importance of a landscape approach, collaboration and financing.

In addition to an immediate and permanent moratorium on natural forest clearance across our supply chain, we quickly learned that when it comes to forest restoration and conservation, multi-stakeholder collaboration in adopting a landscape approach is essential. Simply put, the halting of deforestation in Indonesia – as well as many other areas around the globe – will fail without it.

Administrative boundaries, whether marked by land concessions, private owners, states or even countries, don’t actually matter. The reality is, global forest conservation cannot be undertaken by individual actors - it requires all landscape stakeholders to work together. There must be support for the development of public-private partnerships. And this means bringing together central and local governments, civil society advocates and local communities, as well as companies operating in different sectors, including pulp and paper, palm oil, soy and rubber to name a few.

This type of landscape approach naturally requires the kind of multi-stakeholder collaboration that is encouraged internationally through efforts such as the Bonn Challenge. With the goal of restoring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020, and at least 350 million by 2030, the Bonn Challenge is the most comprehensive forest-restoration initiative in the world.

At APP, we are proud that our plan to restore and support the conservation of rainforest across Indonesia was the first private sector commitment of its kind to be accepted into the Bonn Challenge. To implement this plan, collaboration is key. This is why our efforts to match the amount of established plantations across APP’s and suppliers’ concessions with protected forest was developed with input from many stakeholders, including NGOs such as WWF and Greenpeace.

But landscape forest protection has a cost. If large companies such as APP can invest to promote more sustainable practices amongst smallholders, this can go a long way to preserving natural forest and existing ecosystems. However, to turn this into a reality, smallholders will require technical support, access to markets, or compensation in return for protecting rather than exploiting local natural resources. This is why landscape conservation efforts must be properly managed and funded. The importance of the financial component cannot be understated. It is the scale of the challenge, which will require the development of innovative financing solutions.

One example of such a solution is the Belantara Foundation, which is backed by APP. Belantara works with communities, civil society, government and businesses to help strike a careful balance between economic development, the livelihoods of those living in local communities and environmental conservation. This multi-stakeholder process involves overseeing natural forest restoration and endangered species protection while conducting studies to strengthen sustainable landscape management. The Foundation also supports community empowerment and local economic development, especially in areas where populations tend to rely heavily on natural resources.

Now is the time to make large-scale conservation efforts a reality. Many important issues will be tackled at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, with the urgent need to conserve and restore the forest landscape high among them. From the planning and financing required for landscape conservation, to strategies for ending deforestation within global supply chains, collaboration, transparency and knowledge-sharing must be embraced and encouraged – I am looking forward to doing all of the above!

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