Urgency on climate change a theme, not an undercurrent

Navajo activist Janene Yazzie at GLF Bonn 2018. Pilar Valbuena, GLF
2 December 2018

The Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2018 is in session this weekend, 1–2 December, at the World Conference Center in its namesake German city. In light of the numerous recent and alarming reports – the IPCC Special Report on the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the UN Environment report on the still-growing emissions gap, the U.S. National Climate Report on predicted impacts coming to light sooner than expected – a palpable current of anxiety in the face of an uncertain climate future underpinned the Forum’s first day.

It appears hard to dodge a collective admission that restoration and sustainability efforts are not working as well – or at least not as quickly – as they should, but this is resulting in a new openness in mindsets to anything that might help expedite positive change. “There is no time to do the same thing, but harder,” said Tony Rinaudo, recent Right Livelihood Award laureate and World Vision natural resources advisor. “We need disruptive approaches and technologies. Life on this planet is at stake. For too many, life itself is at stake.”

Here’s a run-down of the first day’s key moments:

  • The need for decentralization of governance – and particularly translating decentralization into development processes through a ‘territorial approach’ – was repeated throughout discussion forums and plenaries.
  • So, too, was the need to incorporate more cultural identity of communities into restoration efforts, and tailoring development efforts to reflect local points of pride.
  • Indonesian minister of the environment and forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar stressed the need to protect and restore tropical peatlands, both in the Opening Plenary and at a press conference on the new International Tropical Peatland Center, which will soon be established in Indonesia. Using Indonesia’s experiences to inform the management of peatlands in Peru, the Congo Basin and other tropical areas is critical, she says.
  • In the all-women Youth Plenary, Brazilian entrepreneur Fe Cortez said that making an impact should not be exclusive with profitability and in her movement to reduce trash in her home country, said that touching people’s hearts is key.
  • Felix Finkbeiner, the 21-year-old founder of Plant-for-the-Planet, echoed Cortez, saying that his youth-driven mission to plant 1 billion trees must be an emotional campaign in order to be successful. A new Plant-for-the-Planet platform, currently available in beta version for iPhones, will link restoration projects with satellite imagery and carbon emissions reduction data to track their progress. It will also allow investors to easily find and directly fund tree-planting programs around the world.
  • Recent Right Livelihood Award laureates Yacouba Sawadogo, a Burkinabe farmer, and Rinaudo recounted their personal stories of developing simple and low-cost methodologies – using ditches and rock barriers to catch rainfall; culling dead branches hindering plant growth – that have led to farmer-led movements restoring degraded drylands in Africa. Sawadogo said that he “gave up everything… to dedicate myself to the land.”
  • Expectations for restoration and reforestation to tackle climate change are not being met through REDD+ projects, said scientists who have completed a global comparative study on the program. As decade-old REDD+ now enters its pre-teen years, they said that optimism about the program must nevertheless be maintained as it is revised to mature into more success.