Tropical forests & climate wins in San Francisco


California Governor Jerry Brown has been fighting to solve climate change for decades. The back-to-back climate meetings he just co-hosted in San Francisco are the latest evidence of his resolve [1].

This month, big steps were taken in San Francisco to unlock the potential of tropical forests as a climate solution.

Tropical forests—and the indigenous peoples who depend upon them—were an important feature of the San Francisco meetings. Slowing the clearing and degradation of tropical forests while speeding their recovery where they have been damaged could provide one fourth or more of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change. And realizing this potential will only be possible if forest communities get the support they need—in many places, this includes winning legal recognition of their territories.

The biggest actions for tropical forests occurred early in the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) week, during the 10th anniversary and annual meeting of the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force on September 10 and 11. This global network of 38 states and provinces, created in California, includes one third of the world’s tropical forests—and most of the forests of the Amazon, Indonesia and Mexico.

Here are the highlights of Earth Innovation Institute’s work in support of tropical forests and communities from that week.

[1] Brown co-hosted the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) with former mayor Michael Bloomberg in San Francisco from September 12 to 14, and California co-hosted the Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF TF) meeting with Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo States, Mexico, two days prior.


Tropical Forests — Highlights in San Francisco

1. Governor Jerry Brown moved California one step closer to the launch of the state’s tropical forest program — the first compliance market for emissions reductions from avoided deforestation.

For nearly a decade, California’s tropical forest program has been studied and publicly debated. On September 6th, Governor Brown moved one step closer to finalizing the program, releasing the “Draft California Tropical Forest Standard”.

Earth Innovation Institute (EII), in collaboration with Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, the Environmental Defense Fund, and The Nature Conservancy, has been working arduously to bring this mechanism to fruition for nearly a decade. Most recently, EII together with Chris Field, Director of the Woods Institute, organized a “Scientists’ Letter to Governor Brown” that received a formal response from the Governor. EII Executive Director, Dan Nepstad; EII Brazil Program Lead, Monica de los Rios Leal; and EII Board Member and GCF Task Force Director, William Boyd, all served on the California REDD Offset Working Group (ROW) that provided the California Air Resources Board with recommendations on how the program should work, and EII organized dialogues and supported public hearings to discuss the program.


2. An historic agreement between indigenous peoples and the governments of tropical forest regions

The GCF Task Force annual meeting marked an historic moment in longstanding efforts to strengthen partnerships between local governments, indigenous peoples and local communities with the goal of advancing bottom-up solutions for forest conversation and rights recognition. Thirty-seven GCF Task Force member jurisdictions and 18 indigenous and local community organizations from across the globe, including some of the largest representative indigenous organizations in the tropics such as Indigenous Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) – Indonesia, the Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB) and the Coordinator of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), committed to collaborate on climate change mitigation and sustainable, equitable development through their endorsement of the Guiding Principles of Collaboration and Partnership between Subnational Governments, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. These Principles should serve to strengthen the role of forest-dependent communities and local governments as co-authors of a new low-emissions development paradigm.

During the closing plenary of the GCAS, Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General of AMAN, in announcing the agreement, said, “Now that the new partnerships are solidified, we need to take it into the next level… We need to take it off paper and make it reality… Because the only way forward is to work together. And if not us, then who? And if not now, then when?

EII, together with the GCF Task Force Secretariat, has coordinated this process since the idea was first discussed in 2014. Civil society organizations, including Forest Trends, PRISMA, EDF, IPAM, INOBU, and Pronatura-Sur, also contributed to this important step forward, and over a dozen more civil society organizations have endorsed the Principles.


To learn more about the initiative, watch the video on the Guiding Principles of Collaboration and Partnership between Subnational Governments, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

3. “State of Jurisdictional Sustainability: Synthesis for Practitioners and Policymakers” launched

Thirty-nine states and provinces that contain 28% of the world’s tropical forests are taking steps to slow deforestation; in half of these states and provinces, deforestation is declining. But the recognition and incentives these aspiring jurisdictions are receiving for their efforts is insufficient. Our global assessment of the progress made by tropical forest jurisdictions to solve tropical deforestation, conducted in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the GCF Task Force Secretariat, presents these and many other important findings.


4. Two new publications about Acre’s pioneering efforts to build a low-carbon, inclusive economy in the Amazon

For 20 years, the government of Acre State, Brazil, has been building a partnership with the State’s indigenous groups, finding effective ways to facilitate their participation in political decision-making, deliver finance to their initiatives, and support innovative programs for livelihoods, cultural revitalization and self-determination, such as the Indigenous Agroforestry Agents Program. We explore how this partnership evolved and some of the lessons learned for other tropical forest jurisdictions in our publication “The Twenty-Year-Old Partnership between Indigenous Peoples and the Government of Acre, Brazil: Lessons for realizing climate change mitigation and social justice in tropical forest regions through partnerships between subnational governments and indigenous peoples”.

In San Francisco we also released a sneak preview of a study of Acre’s industrial and institutional innovations, featuring state-wide industries and cooperatives for marketing forest products such as natural rubber, Brazil nuts, and fruit pulps; the Peixe da Amazonia aquaculture system and other low-carbon protein industries; and the state business agency, ANAC. Read the full Executive Summary: “The New Industries and Cooperatives of Acre State“.


5. The San Francisco Declaration of Amazon Governors

Harnessing the power of tropical forests as a solution to climate change will depend, in part, on the fate of the Amazon, and how the world’s largest rainforest is managed into the future. Recognizing the shared challenges to confronting climate change impacts and opportunities for climate mitigation, a coalition of ten Amazonian governors from Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia signed the San Francisco Declaration: Commitment of Amazon Governors to take strong action against climate change and deforestation in their jurisdictions. The Declaration was signed on September 12, 2018, in the final session of the 10th annual GCF Task Force meeting. The declaration was facilitated by EII, Mecanismos de Desarollo Alternos, EDF, TNC, Moore, and Nature and Culture International.


6. Raising awareness on tropical deforestation

This three minute film on tropical forests, featuring Alec Baldwin and Jane Goodall, was produced by Avoided Deforestation Partners for the GCAS and has almost 800,000 views on Facebook alone. Earth Innovation Institute is the science advisor and administrative partner of ADP for this effort.