‘Protecting primary forests and allowing them to grow is vital to tackling the climate and ecological crisis’

18 June 2019

Nature-based solutions must be among first line of options to cut emissions and strengthen revised NDCs, due in 2020  

Bonn, 18 June 2019: In the face of the twin emergencies we are facing – of rapid loss of species and biodiversity  and climate change, protecting our natural heritage is the best route to a healthy and prosperous future for people and planet, according to the Climate Action Network panelists at the UN intersessional climate talks here in Bonn.

Speakers referred to two important reports: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 1.5°C and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) both of which had startling messages on the crises we are contending with, including the loss of one million species and the potential to spiral into climate breakdown if emissions are not rapidly slashed in a decade.

As we face a dual crisis, we need solutions that integrate biodiversity and climate because of the intimate linkages between the two.

Empowering indigenous communities and protecting their land rights is key to ensuring the integrity of ecosystems and delivering both biodiversity and climate outcomes.

Countries must include nature-based solutions for mitigation and adaptation in their 2020 revised and enhanced climate plans.

Protecting primary forests in both developing and developed countries and allowing them to grow is one of the most important elements of nature-based solutions.


William Moomaw, Emeritus Professor, Tufts University, USA, and IPCC Lead Author, said:

“We have to act rapidly… when we release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a significant portion of it, maybe a quarter is still there a thousand years from now and the temperatures will remain very high for that length of time as well. Whatever peak temperature we hit, if we don’t actively remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that temperature will prevail for a thousand years or more.”

“If you look at our total emissions from fossil fuels and land use change it’s about 10.9 billion tons a year and yet only 4.7 billion tons appears as an increase every year. Who is helping us out so well? It’s natural systems, it’s forests, it’s wetlands, it’s grasslands, it’s the ocean.”

“If we just let secondary forests continue growing we can remove another 2.8 billion tons a year, remember the gap is 4.7 so we’re down to 2 or 1.9. If we stopped land use change, we’d knock off another 1.7 billion tons. We’re down to less than a 1 billion Ton and we haven’t even reduced our emissions.”

“Forests and grasslands are absorbing half of the carbon of which they are capable… there are half as many trees on the planet as there were before the start of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Imagine If you were operating with half your organs.”

“The way to address (the twin emergency) is through pro-forestation, letting the most important existing, high-carbon, intact forests continue growing and protect large, intact, primary forests that are storing so much carbon for us today. These are the ones that will double, triple or in some cases quadruple the amount of carbon per hectare in the coming decades.”

Angelica Guerrero: Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad and CLARA, Colombia, said:

“The concept of pro-forestation and irreversibility of damages has been part of indigenous and local community practices since they began to exist. Indigenous and local communities play an important role in effective conservation of intact forests. They have a very clear idea of how holistic these ecosystems are and the link that now exists between the biodiversity and climate crisis, the biggest risks we face as humans.”

“We need the recognition and respect of communities and for it to be reflected in the national planning processes for economic development. The biggest drivers of deforestation that act on community lands are external and are related to roads or oil exploitation.”

“Nature-based solutions with indigenous people and local communities not only make sense in terms of CO2 reduction or biodiversity protection but also in economic terms.”

Virginia Young, Griffith University and Australian Rainforest Conservation Society, said:

“The trajectory we are currently on, which is ongoing damage to natural ecosystems, loss of primary ecosystems, have an impact on climate as it releases greenhouse gas emissions so we are spiraling down at the moment. We can choose to spiral up by supporting indigenous communities in their struggle to protect their primary forests. We in the developed world have primary forests but they need better protection and they can be expanded. We can buffer, reconnect and rebuild ecosystem integrity across forests in Russia, Canada, the US, Australia and even Europe, which still has some old forests for resilient and stable climate outcomes.”

“Operating in silos in no longer reasonable. It’s no longer reasonable to treat biodiversity as a potential co-benefit of climate action in land and forests.”

“The conversation has started about the need to integrate the work of the biodiversity convention, the work of the UNFCCC, the World Heritage Convention, the UN Convention on desertification…that is something that we need to encourage as it is a critical part of delivering solutions for life on earth so we have healthy people on a healthy planet.”

Peg Putt, co-coordinator Climate Action Network, Ecosystems Working Group, said:

“The IPBES report says that natural solutions can provide 37% of mitigation. But clearly this is not being recognized at the moment in the actions that are being taken by parties or even by the narrative that is coming out of the UNFCCC and its meetings.”

“The Paris Agreement talks about supporting human rights, protecting biodiversity and ensuring ecosystem integrity. Parties need to include natural solutions in revised and enhanced NDCs (nationally determined contributions), these should appear as mitigation and adaptation actions.”

“This is vital to be activated in developed countries across the world in their forests and in their carbon-rich ecosystems. A huge proportion of forested land in the world is actually in developed countries who felt very comfortable pointing fingers at developing countries and telling them what they should do.”

“Forests of the US in South Carolina are being slaughtered and sent all over the world to be burned for biomass for energy production, that is actually equally emissive as burning coal.

Burning forests instead of keeping them to grow on and deliver the benefits of pulling that carbon out of the atmosphere is madness. It’s an opportunity cost that we cannot afford.”

Written by Hala Kilani, Senior Communications Coordinator, CAN

For follow up in Bonn, contact:

Dharini Parthasarathy, Senior Communications Officer, CAN dparthasarathy@climatenetwork.org / whatsapp +918826107830

About CAN

Climate Action Network (CAN) is a global network of over 1100 NGOs in more than 120 countries working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels. More information on www.climatenetwork.org


Support CAN

Help us build power in the climate movement by contributing a one-time or recurring donation that will go to supporting our global work as well as various activities and campaigns in communities in different regions.

Donate to CAN

Stay informed

Subscribe to receive monthly updates on the latest on the climate movement including the content from across the network, upcoming climate change events, news articles and opinion pieces on climate, straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter