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Unrecognized forces for adaptation to climate change
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Unrecognized forces for adaptation to climate change

Satellite photos of the fires burning in Algeria taken three days after they began. European Space Agency


Houria Djoudi, scientist, was watching as Wildfires blazed through her country AlgeriaHer childhood landscapes and forests were turned to ash by her father. The trees that had supported the local population went up in flames over 100,000 acres, taking with it livestock, farms, and lives.

The findings of A new reportThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was a hot topic, answering all questions about why these fires were so severe. Its main finding was that humans have already warmed the earth 1.1 degrees Celsius.

“With every cedar or old oak burning, it is your identity, this is your culture, your history burning,” recalled Djoudi, a senior scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research, at a session at The Global Landscapes Forum will be held alongside COP26Glasgow

The session, “Climate resilience through the power of trees and forests,” emphasized that while climate change must continue to be mitigated, the rates of temperature rise and climate disasters are such that adaptation to new environmental realities must come into stronger and quicker focus. Trees are one the best adaptation tools we have. They can be used to protect land health or provide wood for fuel, homes, and income.

“Much of the change is irreversible. It’s done, and it’s baked in, and we are already feeling it,” said Amy Duchelle, senior forestry officer and team leader of climate change and resilience at FAO, who moderated the session. “In the best IPCC scenarios, we will exceed 1.5 (degrees Celsius of global warming), but this can be brought down with deep cuts in fossil fuel emissions and protection and restoration of natural carbon sinks.”

“Without trees, we’re not going to survive in this region. It is just like that,” said Djoudi.

The forgotten piece

COP26 saw forest issues receive more attention than any UN Climate Change Summit. More than 120 world leaders signed the two-week-long event. A pact to stop deforestation by 2030The summit closed with more than 140 leaders. Stopping deforestation would be a great achievement. Reduce emissions by 11%.

More generally, nature in totality was core to the summit’s negotiations, thanks in large part to the rise of the concept of ‘Nature-based solutions’ to climate change – and forests have been the darling of such proposed solutions thus far.

Mette Wilkie, who directs the FAO’s forestry division, explained that forests have been so prominently included in climate change agendas. This is partly due to the prominent position of forests. REDD+ mechanismUN Program – A UN program that has been implemented in more 60 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by various means of forest management.

As such, forests and trees have solidified their role as powerful climate change mitigators, but their power to aid adaptation is still largely overlooked – in programs, policies and weight given to adaptation overall. When looking at countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate change, “adaptation and resilience tend to be forgotten,” she said.

Move money where it’s needed

Satellite photos of the fires burning in Algeria taken three days after they began. European Space Agency
Three days after they started, satellite photos were taken of the fires in Algeria. European Space Agency

Among the most prominent of climate ‘gaps’ – the gap between climate pledges and actions, between current and zero emissions, between targeted and projected temperature rise – is the gap in actual and needed finance, which is particularly gaping for adaptation finance.

A recent report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) stated that proper adaptation measures require USD 250 to 500 billion per year until 2050 – and that’s just for developing countries. (For comparison, the 12 year-old progress made by developed countries has not been realized after 12 years. Their promise to give developing countries USD 100 billion annually(General climate finance.

It is only natural that Mahamat Assouyouti, senior climate change specialist at the Adaptation Fund, says that international public adaptation finance’s 50 percent increase in the last three years is only a “small hope,” as it still accounts for less than 10 percent of climate finance in total, as reported by UNEP adaptation Gap report 2021. This little amount of adaptation finance focuses more on the immediate needs at the national level than on long-term needs identified locally and in vulnerable countries.

“Unless we address the adaptation finance gap, developing countries will still have issues like how to address food security, how to make sure livelihoods are not threatened by climate impacts,” said Assouyouti.

According to Wilkie, poverty is a significant driver of deforestation, especially in developing countries with tropical forests rich in carbon. This further highlights the need to have long-term financing and not just temporary funding. Ninety percent all African wood is used for fuel.She cited it as an example of a policy that extends beyond urban areas to urban residents who have no other options.

There are two ways adaptive measures can meet basic human needs: planting fast-growing trees to provide fuel and restoring deforested areas using sustainable agriculture. “We need to move from talking about PlantingTrees to talk about Growing them,” she said.

Knowledge power

A local planting project in Kalimantan, Indonesia. Mokhamad Edliadi, CIFOR
Local planting project in Kalimantan (Indonesia). Mokhamad Edliadi, CIFOR

2017 Massive landslides at Freetown, Sierra Leone, triggered by heavy rainfall on deforested hills left more than 1,100 people dead or missing, making it the country’s worst recorded natural disaster. It was tragic by any standard, but it forced the local communities to face their reality and make changes that would increase its resilience to more intense weather.

Five years after the landslides, Freetonians continue learning the benefits of conserving their forests and restoring biodiversity. This is in addition to the benefits it brings to their livelihoods. agroforestryTo reduce erosion and increase soil fertility on their farms. “It’s not just about the trees themselves,” said Michael Balinga, who leads a USAID program team that combats wildlife trafficking in West Africa. “This is an argument for tree-based approaches to funding.”

Sumarni Laman, a young Indigenous Dayak girl from Indonesia, leads the Heartlands Project to raise awareness on deforestation. She also recalls her experiences with natural disasters such as forest fires in Kalimantan in 2015, and again in 2019, and the worst flooding in 40-years between 2020 and 2021.

She explained that the changes in her landscape are not limited to the natural world. They also happen in everyday life, as more young people move into cities for education and employment opportunities. Many of these people lose the environmental knowledge that was passed down to them from their ancestors. “That’s the start of the problem,” she said. “There’s now a gap between the older and younger generations. It’s crucial we make a bridge to reduce this gap. Indigenous knowledge and wisdom is critical.”

One of the most positive outcomes from COP26 was, in fact, A pledge of USD 1.7 million for Indigenous and Local Communities, who Wilkie described as, “invaluable agents against climate change.”

According to Djoudi, though, “the knowledge we had in the past was sufficient to keep us in a certain balance with the ecosystem,” but now it is not enough. She called for the creation of knowledge hubs and databases to allow regions facing the same climate change challenges in different parts the world to share their adaptation strategies in real-time.

“We are in a state of urgency as our forests are burning every year,” she said. “We need to accelerate learning processes and knowledge sharing and to combine scientific and local knowledge.”

The next step in Djoudi’s home landscape is to restore what was lost in the fires, through replanting trees and reforesting the burnt landscapes. “This region is an old cultural landscape where people and communities have a long tradition of stewardship to the land,” she said.

“We need to make sure that restoration efforts will be built on this local knowledge to prioritize locally adapted practices that help not only climate change mitigation and adaptation but also biodiversity, human wellbeing and create opportunities for young people.”


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