Open and transparent: forest data setting the course under the Paris Agreement

19 Aug 2020

Youth can have a catalytic role in charting a new course for forests and climate action under the Paris Agreement. Yet, they are often overlooked. The theme of the International Youth Day 2020, “Youth Engagement for Global Action” seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes. Providing youth with the necessary forestry skills, education, and access to technology, can play a key role in enabling and accelerating inputs from youth – which is desperately needed for forest and climate action.

On 15 July to celebrate another important day for youth engagement – the World Youth Skills Day – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) launched a new three-module e-learning course “Forests and transparency under the Paris Agreement”.

The new course was announced during the webinar “Open and Transparent: Forest data setting the course for green future under the Paris Agreement” that was organized by FAO’s E-Learning Academy. The webinar highlighted the importance of the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under Article 13 of the Paris Agreement, and how the Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) can support its implementation, and how FAO is contributing to enhanced transparency in the forest sector through the global project “Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest)”.

The event drew more than 370 participants from 97 countries who had a chance to interact with experts from FAO, UNFCCC, GEF and the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA), learn about the importance of the ETF and forests and hence, data on forests, for the achievement of our global goal of limiting climate change.

Why the Enhanced Transparency Framework?

The signing of the Paris Agreement was a watershed moment in global climate action, bringing all countries together for the common cause of limiting climate change and its impacts. To boost ambition and confidence in the entire process and provide clarity on the world’s collective progress, the new Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) was agreed upon at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Katowice, Poland.

Specifically, the ETF was established to guide countries on reporting their greenhouse gas emissions, their progress toward their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), their climate change impacts and adaptation, as well as support provided and mobilized, and support needed and received. The Enhanced Transparency Framework also includes processes for technical experts to review reported information and a multilateral peer review where countries can ask questions of one another.

Forest data key for implementing the ETF

According to the results of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020, deforestation and forest degradation continues albeit at a slower rate, indicating the need for more action to halt forest loss and implement sustainable forest and land management practices. This is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce global emissions, while also producing important adaptation, biodiversity, livelihood and development benefits.

To receive support in unpacking the ETF, many forested countries have requested support under various initiatives, including the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT). One of the two global FAO CBIT projects, the FAO/GEF project “Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest)”, was launched in late 2019 to strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of developing countries to produce and use forest data as well as to meet the enhanced transparency requirements of the Paris Agreement, responding to Article 13 and contributing to tackling climate change.

The new e-learning course is aimed at anyone who wants to improve their knowledge of the ETF, get a better understanding of how forests can contribute to the achievement of the Paris Agreement and learn how National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) can help countries meet the ETF requirements. Additionally, the FAO has also developed an NFMS assessment tool, available in the eLearning course, which facilitates the identification of needs and gaps in order to establish or strengthen a country’s forest monitoring. The tool is based on FAO’s Voluntary guidelines on national forest monitoring (VGNFM) reinforced with the REDDcompass resources of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI).

In terms of access to technology, FAO has developed free and open tools and platforms for forest and land monitoring under the Open Foris Initiative. The easy to use tools and platforms enable the collection of crucial forest data by anyone, anywhere, and are ideal for youth interested in using technology for forest and climate action.

How are countries moving toward transparent and reliable data to support decision-making?

2020 represents an important milestone for climate action, as countries get ready to update their NDCs and prepare for the global stocktake in 2023 and transition from MRV to the ETF. Ensuring transparency when monitoring collective progress, including in the forest sector, will be crucial to meeting our shared goal of avoiding dangerous climate change and protecting ecosystems and future generations.

Multi-purpose National Forest Monitoring Systems can support climate action on the ground, and an excellent example of this is the National System for Monitoring Land Cover, Land Use and Ecosystems (SIMOCUTE, in Spanish) developed in Costa Rica.

SIMOCUTE generates high-quality information to support national political decision-making for management of natural resources and facilitates the collection, integration, management and dissemination of data and environmental information at the national level. The monitoring system offers educational and vocational training opportunities for students and young experts in the early stages of their careers. The integration of young experts—both men and women—into the planning and organization of the monitoring system is closely linked to capacity building and networking strategies the country has put in place.

SIMOCUTE is the result of hard work led by CENIGA, together with more than 40 institutions linked to the monitoring of forests, land cover and land use in the country. These institutions include public institutions, national organizations, academia, and international cooperation, including the collaboration of FAO, the Silva Carbon programme of the United States and other partners of the GFOI.

Education activities such as e-learning courses, knowledge exchanges and targeted technical webinars are designed to facilitate capacity development for youth from forested countries to learn and adapt knowledge and tools for effective forest monitoring and bring sustainable development to their home country and local communities.

This article was authored by Julian Fox, Team Leader, National Forest Monitoring, Forestry Division and Rocío D. Cóndor-Golec, Forestry Officer (Enhanced Transparency Framework), from the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Related links

Project Brochure: http://www.fao.org/3/ca7424es/ca7424es.pdf

Poster: http://www.fao.org/3/ca9905en/ca9905en.pdf

eLearning course:  https://elearning.fao.org/course/view.php?id=587

Case study Costa Rica: http://www.fao.org/3/ca8618es/ca8618es.pdf

Information note NFMS assessment tool: http://www.fao.org/3/ca9903en/ca9903en.pdf

Video 15 July eLearning launch: https://vimeo.com/439089174.

Video 21 July event “Forest data and transparency: ‘Zoom’ in on Costa Rica’s experience”: https://youtu.be/Nftr9Kh6qac

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