A statement by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Re:wild (formerly Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC)), World Resources Institute (WRI), and Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN):

Our organizations are members of the Forests for Life Partnership, launched in September 2019 to place ecological integrity at the heart of managing and conserving the world’s forests and to halt and reverse declines in integrity across 1 billion hectares of the most intact forests worldwide. Together, we have programs across all the major intact forest regions of the world and work with national governments, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and others.

The vision of the partnership is a world where the value of the ecological integrity of forests to humankind is universally recognized, loss of integrity has ceased, and the restoration of integrity is underway, in all cases taking full account of the rights and self-determination of Indigenous and local communities.

High Forest, Low Deforestation (HFLD) countries and jurisdictions are those with very extensive, ecologically intact forests and low historical rates of deforestation. In many HFLD forest countries and jurisdictions across the Amazon, the Congo Basin, the countries of Southeast Asia and the Pacific and elsewhere, forests are at increasing risk from economic growth, infrastructure expansion, demographic trends, and globalized demand for commodities, further exacerbated by climate change. The climate effects from forest loss and degradation at these new frontiers are substantial and may be grossly under-represented by commonly used methodologies: for example, full accounting of the carbon impacts from the loss of intact tropical forest landscapes between 2000 and 2013 yielded estimates six times higher than conventional reporting.

HFLD credits are anchored by the large areas of intact forest that they secure, which form a net carbon sink of global importance. Intact tropical forests consistently sequester 2.6 billion tonnes of CO2/yr.

Recommendation to the LEAF Coalition: Our organizations recommend that HFLD-labeled credits issued under TREES 2.0 be included in the credit purchase commitment portfolios of all LEAF Coalition members (i.e. sovereign contributors and private sector buyers). These credits have high environmental integrity as shown by the following points:

1. Additional. HFLD credits are additional as they reward the success of HFLD countries and jurisdictions to date in retaining large, highly intact forests through monitoring, law enforcement, conservation, and regulation, among other measures. This success should not be taken for granted–these forest lands are too valuable and the potential threats against them too high to imagine that they will remain in good ecological condition indefinitely without adequate financial incentives from the global community.

2. Conservative. TREES 2.0 takes a limited, conservative approach to HFLD-crediting, to ensure that HFLD credits are robust and credible in a market context – TREES HFLD methodology issues credits for less than 0.05% of standing forest carbon stocks annually in HFLD jurisdictions. Further, as noted above, HFLD jurisdictions are characterized by intact forests and loss of intact forest embeds roughly six times the CO2 emissions than are accounted for by conventional methods, including TREES 2.0.

3. Permanence. Credits are highly likely to contribute permanent climate mitigation benefits. Global analysis shows that 98% of forest carbon remains in forests after 20 years (Xu et al. 2021). The insurance mechanisms required by the TREES standard (e.g., buffer pools) ensure that the overall atmospheric benefit of these units will be maintained (even if reversals occur in some locations).

4. Counteract global leakage. LEAF purchase commitments are intended to incentivize emission reductions; if HFLD jurisdictions are not included, this could result in “leakage” of deforestation – largely driven by commodity agriculture production – from high[1]deforestation jurisdictions into others. The purchase of HFLD credits can serve as an essential “hedge” against global leakage.

5. Reward forest stewardship by Indigenous Peoples. HFLD credits offer an additional pathway for Indigenous Peoples to benefit from markets for jurisdictional REDD+ credits. Under TREES 2.0 Indigenous Peoples’ territories can be aggregated into subnational accounting areas under national submissions and are eligible to qualify as HFLD and use the optional HFLD crediting approach, which may better reflect and reward their historical performance in protecting their forests.

6. Incentivize action at scale. HFLD credit purchases reward jurisdictions that are protecting their forests from deforestation, complementing the benefits of incentivizing emission reductions in jurisdictions that have higher deforestation. HFLD countries and jurisdictions that receive recognition and support of this kind for their conservation results are more likely to continue and enhance their efforts, avoiding accelerating future emissions and contributing to the global stabilization of the climate by maintaining their forest carbon sinks.

7. Avoid perverse incentives. Including HFLD credits in a credit portfolio helps to ensure a balance of approaches to forest protection, by alleviating concerns that REDD+ can create perverse incentives by disproportionately rewarding jurisdictions that have experienced the highest rates of deforestation and thereby contribute the most to climate change impacts from forest-based emissions.

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