It has long been recognised that forests are the frontline of our planetary defences against climate change. Countless scientific reports demonstrate their ability to absorb and store millions of tons of carbon, preventing it from entering the atmosphere and warming the planet. That’s why Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is a meaningful and significant means of climate action.
But beyond their ability to capture, store, recycle and sequester carbon, forest management and preservation, also contributes a host of other benefits.
REDD+ projects create job opportunities
An often overlooked benefit of REDD+ projects is their ability to create jobs for local communities. By nature, REDD+ projects are usually located in rural areas, where there are limited jobs available for local community members, and what work exists can often be low-paid, intermittent, or agricultural work that threatens the forest and causes land-use change.
With the push for implementation and growth of nature-based solutions (NbS) in many frontline climate regions, local communities can directly benefit from the creation of a new employment sector. A new report from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN Environment Programme, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that investing in policies to support NbS can create millions of jobs – particularly benefitting for people living rurally.
In fact, NbS is already providing work for millions, with 75 million people already employed in the sector. Yet, if investment in NbS tripled by 2030 – a key date in the UN’s calendar to reach climate milestones – an additional 20 million jobs in NbS would be created.
Moreover, NbS also provides economic alternatives to current land-uses. For decades, landowners in Paraguay have solely been able to profit from land in the Chaco by deforesting and converting forests into cattle ranches for beef production or agricultural production such as soybean. Carbon projects have changed that. By putting a price on the forest and its carbon, landowners are able to benefit from conserving pristine forest and get a return from the sales revenue of verified carbon offsets through the REDD+ mechanism.
This has been recognised as a major step toward protecting biodiversity, and ecosystems from degradation and deforestation. These jobs not only benefit communities by providing secure work, but helps preserve nature as a force to combat climate change, and reduce flooding, food and water insecurity.
Keeping crops safe and limiting extreme drought
When it comes to food and water security, forests have a beneficial role to play here too.
Their temperature, climate and agricultural output depends on them. It’s commonly known that forests absorb and store carbon and how deforestation affects global climate change. But for regional communities, forests also help cool the surrounding area, by providing shade and mitigating extreme heat with their dense, dark canopy. When forests are removed, they can’t perform these functions and as a result, can’t keep regional temperatures within a moderate range.
Forests also regulate rainfall – particularly in the tropics. Deforestation increases local temperatures, which disrupts regional rainfall patterns and makes the effects of climate change even more severe in frontline communities. Without adequate rainfall, crops wither, which has local and global implications in terms of food security.
The remedy to this is – once again – forests. Through their water recycling and root systems, forests guard against the health and agricultural risks of heat-induced droughts that are expected to increase as global warming accelerates.
As a new World Resources Institute report has found, forests have overwhelming beneficial effects on climate stability at a regional level. Their natural biophysical processes they contribute to food and water security, protect human health and also provide an adaptation tool to guard against future global warming and weather effects.
Storing carbon and protecting climate-vulnerable communities
Historically, earth’s ecosystems, notably oceans and forests have helped keep the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from causing catastrophic global heating. More than a quarter of all CO2 that has been emitted by humans has been absorbed by forests and other soil – the WRI estimates the number to be about 12 billion tonnes of CO2e every year.
This is a key benefit of forests and a driver of REDD+ projects and the preservation of forest cover. Keeping forests in tact creates both a haven for biodiversity and a precious carbon sink where greenhouse gases can be safely stored.
Currently, deforestation is the primary land-use change in the tropics and countries in the global south, and in the Paraguayan Chaco, where Quadriz works, deforestation is happening at one of the fastest rates on earth. This has severely detrimental effects on biodiversity, local communities and the global climate.
That’s because the effects of deforestation aren’t all evenly distributed around the globe. Although there are global impacts, many of the negative effects of deforestation are highly local as mentioned above. From heat waves to drought and crop failures, this causes a domino effect of breakdowns in energy, food and water cycles. As a result, climate-vulnerable communities are exposed to even greater risk of climate extremes where deforestation occurs.
It’s clear that forests deliver global climate co-benefits above and beyond their global carbon benefits. As the need for climate solutions become more pressing, forests are one of the most effective tools to combat climate change, provide jobs, preserve eco-systems and prevent water and energy system breakdown.
Find out how REDD+ projects are preserving forests, creating co-benefits and helping communities adapt to climate change.