Why Canada should help save tropical rainforest: Op-ed by Anne Lambert

January 10, 2020 — An op-ed by ICFC co-founder Anne Lambert published in the Chronicle Herald newspaper argues that Canada should play a role in reducing tropical deforestation as this is vital to avoiding catastrophic climate change. A rapid transition to a low-carbon energy sector is also needed, but the importance of natural ecosystems in relation to climate change has been largely overlooked until recently. 

A priority is ending tropical deforestation and the needless destruction of other natural ecosystems, especially carbon-rich peatlands and coastal ecosystems such as mangroves. This is a super cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions on a large scale. It also addresses biodiversity loss and preserves millions of forest-dependent livelihoods and water for drinking, irrigation, and hydro power.  We need forests as well for resilience they provide to impacts of extreme weather.

We can also quickly remove CO2 from the atmosphere on a large scale by restoring lost and degraded forests, especially in the tropics where trees grow rapidly and year-round. There is much degraded land where this can happen, and it can be done without compromising our ability to produce food for a growing human population.

When you add up avoided emissions from the loss of natural ecosystems and negative emissions from sequestering carbon in ecosystems, you get a big number. Natural climate solutions (which also include better approaches to agriculture and grasslands) can help the world achieve 37 per cent of the Paris Agreement target through 2030, according to a study published in October 2017 in the journal PNAS.

Norway, Germany, and the U.K. have pledged billions in bilateral aid to combat tropical deforestation. Canada has not. And we’re well down the list of countries pledging REDD+ payments to reduce deforestation.  In the Paris Agreement, Canada and other developed countries committed to help developing countries with climate mitigation and adaptation to the tune of US$100 billion a year. Applying at least half of such aid to nature-based solutions makes eminent sense.

Canadians can take pride in something. The largest continuous area of protected tropical forest — an area twice the size of Nova Scotia — is that of the Kayapo Indigenous territories in the Brazilian Amazon. These lands remain intact thanks to a conservation effort pioneered by the Canadian biologist Barbara Zimmerman 30 years ago. Today, the Kayapo and their conservation NGO partners are continuing to hold the line against increasing threats of destructive land invasion in the absence of government enforcement.

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