2020
Dec

Achieving change at scale in the tropics: Jurisdictional strategies and the emerging carbon market

The last four years have seen record rates of tropical deforestation, a persistent trend that has defied international efforts to stem the loss. As a new decade approaches, there is a need to reassess current strategies to ensure that tropical forests are protected, that tropical forest regions can thrive and that the world can avoid the worst outcomes of climate change.

Jurisdictional strategies offer a promising roadmap to achieving these goals.

Tropical deforestation produces an estimated 10% of global emissions annually, and yet tropical forests represent up to 20% of the climate change solution, helping to keep emissions below the level needed to keep global warming within the 1.5° limit set under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Increasingly, many in the public and private sector are therefore turning their attention to jurisdictional strategies, which provide a framework to achieve lasting and positive change in tropical forest regions. One indicator of this is rising demand from hundreds of companies that have committed to climate neutrality and have expressed interest in the potential of jurisdictional carbon offsets as a means to meet their goals.

Still, questions abound as to what a jurisdictional approach entails, how it differs from previous efforts to keep forests standing, and how it addresses concerns associated with market mechanisms tied to forest conservation and emissions reductions.

Unlike project-based approaches, which tend to be time-bound and limited in their geographic scope, jurisdictional strategies lay the groundwork for sustainable development and forest conservation across entire states and provinces. And by aligning public policy with the interests of a diverse set of stakeholders—including governments, producers, and Indigenous peoples—a jurisdictional approach helps to ensure that the benefits derived from forest-protection accrue equally across these sectors.  

Sharing lessons learned from EII’s work supporting regional governments to develop their low-emission, forest-friendly development plans, EII Scientist Claudia Stickler presents findings from a recent study of 38 tropical forest jurisdictions that committed to cutting deforestation by 80% by 2020 incumbent on financial support from the international climate community. EII Senior Policy Analyst Patricia Luna then takes a deeper dive to see what deforestation looks like in the Peruvian Amazon, sharing insights from EII’s work helping to implement low-emission rural development (LED-R) plans across 6 states in the region. Finally, EII’s Country Coordinator for Brazil, Monica de Los Rios, looks at two pioneering Brazilian states—Acre and Mato Grosso—to provide a clearer picture of the role jurisdictional strategies have played in mitigating forest loss while supporting sustainable growth.

As the damaging effects of global warming become increasingly evident, and as tropical deforestation intensifies, the need to reassess current forest-protection strategies in tropical regions is urgent. “The international community has yet to make a compelling case for tropical forest societies to move down the pathway of forest-friendly development,” notes EII Executive Director Daniel Nepstad.

A jurisdictional approach can help to ensure tropical forest states and provinces that are working toward forest-, community-, and climate-friendly growth have the resources they need to get there. In doing so, they make the case for tropical forest conservation—and with it, climate change mitigation—more compelling for those directly responsible for carrying it out.

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