Remarks for Launch of Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes Announcement

Todd D. Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change 
EU Pavilion
Warsaw, Poland
November 20, 2013

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to thank Minister Davey for his welcome, and of course to Secretary Kerry for his message to us here in Warsaw. Unfortunately, I’ll have to leave shortly but felt it was important to make this announcement.

As Secretary Kerry noted, we’re proud to be part of the new Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (“ISFL”). This new partnership between governments and the private sector will help create long-term and lasting incentive structures for more sustainable development. The $25 million that the United States plans to provide, as part of the more than $250 million in planned total commitments being announced today. This complements the more than $1billion in financing for REDD+ the United States has provided since the beginning of the fast start period.

Beyond financing though, we are proud to have been part of a brain trust of partners including the U.K., Norway, and the World Bank, to design this initiative. In fact, many of you will recognize this as the Funding Avoided Deforestation concept we have talked so much about. And of course the Initiative is one of our key contributions to the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a key public-private partnership with the goal of reducing deforestation associated with the production of key tropical commodities.

We’re fortunate to have a Secretary of State – and a President – who both feel strongly about the need to act on climate change. The President’s Climate Action Plan highlights the importance of taking action to halt deforestation as one of the priority areas for U.S. engagement internationally, and sustainable landscapes are one of three focal areas for U.S. climate finance.

Secretary Kerry pointed out how important forests, and indeed the whole land sector, are for our atmosphere, for plant and animal biodiversity, and for our collective future. This is true for the United States too – forests cover one-third of our land and supply 80 percent of our fresh water. We share many of the same trade-offs facing developing countries: a growing population places additional demands on resources, and potential economic trade-offs between forest protection and other land uses.

As was the case in the U.S., agricultural expansion continues to be one of the leading drivers of deforestation in developing countries. The challenge is that agriculture is also a major force for economic growth. Over a billion people worldwide work in agriculture, and agricultural markets provide a major source of income for farmers and communities. As demand for food, feed, fiber and fuels continues to grow, the importance of the agricultural sector will only continue to expand. We need to find ways to foster increased agricultural production while continuing to protect standing forests and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

We very much hope this new Initiative can help break down the myth that we must choose between either development or the environment. The ISFL will help ambitious developing countries move forward toward their climate goals by providing them with resources to implement smarter, more productive forest preservation strategies, and create alternative options.

The combination of public and private sector cooperation in this initiative is new and unique, and recognizes the importance of engaging the private sector as partners, not adversaries, in the fight against climate change. We know that public sector funding alone is not sufficient to change the structural drivers of deforestation. We must also change the signals provided by the private sector to forest communities.

The ISFL will support the groundwork necessary to implement REDD+ and support sustainable agricultural production through its grants, technical assistance, and purchases of emissions reductions. At the same time, the private sector will create demand for forest-friendly products through their commitments to purchase more sustainable commodities from sustainably managed landscapes. This combination of incentives creates a powerful dynamic, where there is both upfront support for forest stewardship and demand-side pull for forest-friendly products.

I’d like to close by reiterating how proud we are to be part of the creation of the new Initiative on Sustainable Forest Landscapes.And it’s an honor to turn the microphone over now to my colleague Minister Sundtoft of Norway, for her remarks. Thank you all very much.