Saturday, September 15, 2018

More Money to Save Forests

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Forests are vital to our Earth. Trees purify our air, filter our water, prevent erosion, and act as a buffer against climate change. 

They offer a home to plant and animal species while also providing natural resources such as medicine, food, timber, and fuel. 

300 million people live in forests worldwide. Sixty million of those humans are indigenous who are completely dependent on native woods. 

Yet, over half of the world’s forests have been destroyed over 10,000 years, the majority in just the last 50 years. 

Thankfully, today, there are individuals and organizations worldwide fighting the good fight to save our forests.

A day ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit (September 12-15, 2018) in San Francisco, USA where close to 4,500 delegates from city and regional governments assembled – nine philanthropy organizations came together to pledge $459 million (RM1.9 billion) to be delivered over the next four years in order to rescue fast-shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. 

“While the world heats up, many of our governments have been slow – slow to act. And so, we in philanthropy must step up”, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation (one of the donors) told the media. Notable others include the MacArthur Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation. 

Charlotte Streck, director of Amsterdam-based think tank Climate Focus, said the size of the commitment makes the groups major players in supporting anti-deforestation programs. 

The new money committed by these foundations could prove to be more “flexible and nimble” than money from governments, she said. 

“The money that has been pledged by governments like Norway, Germany and the UK, sits mostly in trust funds with the World Bank and the UN and it doesn’t get out so quickly”, she clarified further. 

Anyway, the said funds are to assist indigenous peoples who are forest dwellers to secure titles to land they live on. It is reckoned that this may be the best way to protect our dwindling forests. 

“Companies come to our village, our forests and say: ‘You have to leave because I have the license from the government’”, said Rukka Sombolinggi, who heads the Indonesia-based Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN). 

Indigenous and local communities own more than half the world's land under customary rights. Yet they only have secure legal rights to 10 percent, according to Rights and Resources Initiative, a Washington DC-based advocacy group. 

Governments maintain legal and administrative authority over more than two-thirds of global forest area, much of which is claimed and contested by local communities, RRI affirmed.

The assault on communal lands is not only a tragedy for the affected communities, but for all of us. 

Research by RRI and World Resources Institute has shown that where Indigenous peoples and local communities possess legal rights to their lands, carbon storage is higher and deforestation rates are lower, thereby contributing to mitigating global warming. 

And whether we know it or not, forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced – and those emissions need to be slashed substantially more to meet the goals set in the Paris agreement. 

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6°F) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher goal of 1.5 degrees C.

Urgent action is needed to accelerate the recognition of the local communities as forest owners.

It gives the world its best chance of combating climate change.

Therefore, it’s good to know financially well-off non-governmental organizations are offering to help because every bit of help helps! 

On Thursday, I attended the USG Boral Toastmasters meeting at Lot 606, off Jalan SS13/1K in Subang Jaya, Selangor – where I was a speech evaluator for a CC#7 speech:

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