Addressing the value of trees

Solaris Paper Pty Ltd

By Steve Nicholson*
Tuesday, 28 November, 2017

Addressing the value of trees

As time between the signing of the Paris Agreement and the present day continues to grow further apart, the need for Australian corporations, Asia Pacific regional commodities, as well as major NGOs and representatives from the Australian Government to work together, is needed more than ever. It is estimated that 1.6 billion people in the world depend on forests for their livelihoods, employment or income[1]. It is imperative that more emphasis is placed on trees and forests and the citizens of the world start to focus on the rights of trees so that their own rights can continue to flourish.

Organisations like the Asia Pacific Rainforest Partnership (APRP) Private Sector Roundtable and Sustainable Business Australia (SBA) have made lowering carbon emissions and exterminating deforestation as top priorities for Australia and the surrounding Asia Pacific countries. To make this initiative a global success, financial connections must be associated with organisations’ efforts in conservation and restoration, sustainable land use and forest investment.

Conservation and restoration key to fighting climate change

One important step in putting a stop to climate change is to prevent the destruction of biodiversity and restore areas that have previously been impacted. By financially investing in a conservation and restoration plan, more forests can be saved.

Forests, in particular, can play a major role in the ecosystems of other plant and animal species with 80% of land animals and plants residing in forests[2]. Due to deforestation, land that was once home to forests is suffering from extreme temperature shifts that are harmful to other plants and animals. These temperatures also contribute to greenhouse gases which fuel global warming.

By carefully managing forest resources and eliminating harmful practices such as clear-cutting, the restoration plan can begin. As the public sector gets behind this movement, the private sector can better align with government priorities and funding opportunities.

Green finance and land use

Carbon mitigation through land-use activities and green financing has been identified as an avenue to stimulate investment. Land management interventions which reduce carbon emissions, such as improving agricultural and forestry practices to seize additional carbon, offer significant potential for near-term carbon mitigation.

There is a substantial opportunity in financing, including greening foreign direct investment, the role of financial technology in advancing green finance and enabling developing countries’ participation in international cooperation in green finance. These initiatives build on the positive momentum created in 2016 by the endorsement of the Paris Agreement, the Green Finance Study Group led by China and the United Kingdom and the adoption of the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) within the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

While the resources are available to scale up investments in carbon mitigation through land use activities, greater stability and the establishment of a clear financial framework are required to divert funds rapidly and at the scale needed by 2020.

Financing options and what it takes to access them

As momentum among public and private sectors increases, there is a growing interest in investing in forests and climate change prevention from mainstream financial institutions who are looking to increase their investing exposure. New funds becoming available, such as the IDH Tropical Forest and Agriculture Fund, are a very practical way for private investors to contribute. The IDH fund was launched this year by the Norwegian Prime Minister to trigger private investments in deforestation-free agriculture and to protect over 5 million hectares of tropical forests and peatlands by 2020.

Another example is the Green Climate Fund, established by 194 government bodies to make a significant contribution to the united global response to climate change. While ambitious, the fund is a relatively young institution and is still developing policies on how to engage key sectors. It is important that as government bodies invest more in the environment, they are equally met and backed by the private sector.

While there are multiple financing options available, there are still challenges facing certain regions such as Asia and South America around plantation forestry, which encompasses regulatory issues, free prior informed consent processes and operational barriers. If financing is to work, the private sector in all regions must be able to get involved.

Next steps

It is clear that both public and private sectors are committed to eliminating deforestation and playing their role in combating climate change. We now have a better understanding of what steps need to be taken to achieve these goals and close the gap between ambition and reality.

While conservation and restoration projects are being undertaken, the private sector needs further assistance from influential stakeholders in ‘pushing forward’ these projects. These stakeholders can also play an active role in new project development. Australian corporates welcomed the opportunity to engage more directly in the APRP and proposed building a broader and longer-term engagement plan to highlight opportunities for participation.

To make progress now, we need to be investing as much in land use solutions as we are in clean energy. To make this happen, companies and investors with money to invest in reducing emissions require greater stability and the establishment of a clear and long-term framework which will stimulate these types of investments.

We must continue to have an open dialogue with government bodies and communities to make progress, witness changes and protect our futures.

*Steve Nicholson is the Director of Sustainability at Solaris Paper. Solaris Paper is an Australian operated and managed affiliate of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), distributing high-quality toilet and tissue paper products throughout the Australasia region to both wholesale and retail markets.

Solaris Paper maintains a strict, zero-tolerance policy for illegal fibre entering the supply chain and implements comprehensive, independently audited systems to ensure that the raw materials it purchases are from legal and responsibly managed forests.

[1] Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations: Forests and Poverty Reduction

[2] WWF

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