California Releases Draft Tropical Forest Standard Sending an Important Signal to Tropical Forest Governments

As tropical forest governors descend upon San Francisco next week to discuss their plans and aspirations to help solve climate change by combating tropical deforestation, they will be encouraged and motivated by some long-awaited news. California Air Resources Board released the draft California Tropical Forest Standard on September 6th. This is great news for tropical forests, and an important step forward to unlock their potential in the fight against climate change. After a decade of consultation, development and expert analysis, the decision couldn’t come at a better time.  Tropical forests are disappearing fast, and the regional governments committed to protecting them urgently need recognition for their efforts and appropriate finance mechanisms to fund low-emission development alternatives to deforestation, as our new global assessment of tropical forest progress documents. The multiple opportunities and benefits of including tropical forests in California’s cap-and-trade forest offset program have been outlined in recent editorials in the New York Times and Mongabay.com.  In addition, prominent scientists have weighed in, writing a letter urging Jerry Brown to act.

The California Tropical Forest Standard provides a framework for expanding the successful domestic forest offset program to the tropics, where deforestation and land conversion are responsible for 10% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. It is the last step needed before California can finally launch its tropical forest program. Preventing tropical deforestation and degradation, allowing forest recovery, and restoring degraded lands could provide more than a quarter of the emissions reductions needed by 2030 to prevent catastrophic climate change. Including tropical forest offset programs in California’s cap-and-trade system would contribute to these efforts, sending the right signals to the bold leaders of tropical forest regions, states and provinces who have committed to reducing deforestation without sufficient recognition and reward from the global community. Protecting tropical forests also ensures the multitude of functions and services these forests provide are maintained for future generations while delivering benefits to millions of indigenous and forest-dependent communities. Currently, 10% of the domestic forest offset programs are implemented on tribal lands.

The Draft Standard sets a high bar for recognizing and defending the rights of indigenous peoples and other traditional communities, favoring programs such as the 20-year partnership between the Government of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon, and the indigenous peoples of that State. EII has documented this program of political empowerment and concrete actions on the ground in a study that will be released September 11th.

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