Introduction to forest-climate action

Climate change is having widespread negative impacts on 1.3 billion people dependent on forests for their livelihoods and wellbeing. Many of the 720 million people globally who will be pushed into extreme poverty through climate change by 2050, for example, are forest-dependent. Yet these same people, out of sheer necessity, are organising themselves to adapt and build their climate resilience, which often also mitigates climate change through carbon stored in trees and soils.

Article, 12 October 2021
Localising forest-climate action
A programme of work engaging with locally-controlled forestry organisations to upscale effective climate change adaptation, resilience and mitigation through the restoration of forest landscape biodiversity
A man and a woman holding a machete stand in front of a tree in a forest

Forest farmers growing black pepper in agroforestry systems in Ghana (Photo: Duncan Macqueen, IIED)

We believe that forest organisations – that include Indigenous People's groups, community forest management groups and smallholder forest farmer groups and their businesses – are developing efficient and durable climate solutions. For them climate resilience is not an option, it’s a matter of survival. And their collective numbers make inclusion in forest-climate action a necessary priority. 

IIED research shows how forest organisations routinely innovate to enhance prosperity for their members, including adopting many of the 30 practical options for climate resilience that are documented both in the academic literature and in case studies on climate resilience written by forest and farm organisations (annex 1).

Such options are often built around restoring trees on farms to enrich soil fertility and diversify incomes using tree products. When grouped into regional associations to add value to those products, and federated nationally to lobby for better policies, the collective efforts of these forest organisations can transform landscapes. 

Smallholder tree growers are a force of nature: the only real hope for forest landscape restoration at a scale that will mitigate global climate change.

What is IIED doing?

The IIED forests and prosperity work programme collaborates with these organisations engaged in forest climate action. We support them to: 

  • Quantify and collect evidence of their positive climate contributions
  • Build capabilities to assess and respond to climate threats and pilot adaptation and mitigation solutions, and
  • Facilitate interactions that link them to national adaptation and mitigation programmes – such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+).

The work programme has a strong track record of developing effective REDD+ implementation actions, such as the Brazil-Mozambique Initiative and testing REDD+ in Mozambique.

National partnerships

The forests and prosperity work programme works with 'practitioner teams' in many countries. We help them to:

  • Co-produce and wield evidence of their effective climate action
  • Strengthen the organisational capabilities for sustainable climate adaptation and mitigation practice and advocacy, and
  • Facilitate the interactions and opportunities to engage climate finance.

International interactions

IIED’s forests team also engages with international dialogues and processes focused on forest-related priorities including those relating to the Conference of Parties (COPs) on climate and biodiversity, the UN Food Systems Summit and the Sustainable Development Goals. 

This engagement includes interactions with donor agencies and the private sector, as well as with multi-sectoral initiatives, such the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, designed to reduce deforestation and forest degradation.

This work allows us to raise awareness of the importance of getting money to where it matters and the advantages of investing in forest-climate action that reaches Indigneous People, community forest management groups and smallholder forest farmers and their businesses at the local level.

The main focus of the forest and prosperity work programme’s work on forest-climate action is on:

We have also done several high-profile independent reviews for programmes and projects at national or international level, where they align with this core focus. An example would be an assessment of the Global Environment Facility support to sustainable forest management and REDD+.

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Duncan Macqueen ([email protected]), forests team leader and principal researcher, Natural Resources research group