Forests are essential to human survival: They filter our air and water, keep carbon out of the atmosphere and even provide us with life-saving prescription medicines.
Despite all of these benefits, humans have already destroyed almost half of the world’s forests.
But there’s good news: People are stepping up to conserve existing forests and restore the ones we’ve already cut down. Here are three recent positive developments in forest conservation.
1. “Debt-for-nature” bill renewal would conserve forests
The U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced legislation to renew the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA), a bill enacted in 1998 that conserves nature in developing countries. The bill revolves around the debt-for-nature policy, which means that the United States “forgives” certain amounts of debt that developing countries have in exchange for conservation efforts. Around US$ 233 million had been “given” to countries in debt-for-nature agreements as of December 2016.
Approximately 56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide have been sequestered through the program since its initiation, equivalent to taking 11.8 million cars off the roads. The renewal will also include efforts to conserve coral reef ecosystems — an expansion of the original bill.
“Conservation International applauds the House introduction of legislation to reauthorize [the Act],” said the organization’s president, Jennifer Morris. “This important conservation legislation is among the U.S. Government’s most innovative and effective economic tools for supporting critical conservation initiatives that sustain ecosystems, livelihoods and species.”
The renewal of the bill would secure conservation efforts until fiscal year 2021.
2. Cloud forest conservation initiative helps supply renewable energy.
Cloud forests — tropical rainforests found in high-altitude mountainsides that are regularly immersed in low-lying cloud cover — help provide energy. How? Half of all cloud forests filter and provide water for some of the 50,000 plus hydropower reservoirs around the world, providing renewable energy. The Cloud Forest Blue Energy Mechanism, an initiative developed by Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, is an investment tool that mobilizes funds to conserve cloud forests in Latin America.
Now, a new initiative will help conserve these cloud forests so that hydropower can continue to grow as a reliable energy source.
The Cloud Forest Blue Energy Mechanism, an initiative developed by Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy, has a “pay for success” technique. This means that hydropower plants’ investments in cloud forests result in tangible benefits to their company, making the initiative a win-win for renewable energy corporations and conservation.
“Natural climate solutions — like restoring and conserving cloud forests that provide important goods and services that we need on a daily basis — can deliver up to 30 percent of emission reductions needed by 2030 to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Romas Garbaliauskas, senior director of conservation finance at Conservation International.
3. Shailene Woodley becomes the voice of ‘Forest’
In the latest film in the “Nature Is Speaking” series, Shailene Woodley provides the voice of forest — inclusive of all forests, from tropical mangroves to coniferous forests. In the film, Woodley is the emphatic voice of forest, urging people to protect her or suffer the consequences.
“Saving forests is the only way to save ourselves,” said Woodley, an Emmy Award nominee. “From the air we breathe, to water, medicine and other resources they provide, forests sustain lives.”
The goal of “Forests” is to bring attention to the life-giving benefits that forests provide and how essential it is that we protect them. Nature alone can solve more than one-third of climate change, but not if people continue to destroy it. The messaging behind the campaign is that nature doesn’t need people — people need nature.
The "Nature Is Speaking" series was launched in 2014 by Conservation International and has included films narrated by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars including Harrison Ford, Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts.