Covering nearly one-third of the world’s surface, forests offer a wealth of tangible and intangible benefits. They maintain biodiversity, protect land and water resources, and play a role in climate change mitigation. They also provide livelihoods for some 1.6 billion people around the world. In addition, forests provide an invaluable source of social and spiritual benefits. Read more+
Given the tremendous value of forests on so many levels, sustainable management is critical. Forests are at risk from a variety of threats, including unsustainable exploitation of wood and other resources like animals, food and plants. Air pollution and extreme events like drought, floods and frost can also damage the health of forests.
Since 2007, global climate talks have increasingly recognized the role of forests. Left in the ground, forests act as “carbon sinks” to mitigate the impact of climate change. Once cut down, they release stored carbon, making climate change worse. Deforestation in tropical rainforests, for example, adds more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than the sum total of cars and trucks on the world’s roads.
Through a combination of sustainable forest management and land restoration, the global community is trying to balance the environmental, economic and social benefits of forests.
What We Do
For more than two decades, the GEF has championed sustainable forest management. We recognize the need to preserve the integrity of forests and related ecosystems, while supporting livelihoods for communities. To that end, we support a wide range of tools such as the creation of protected areas, certification of timber and non-timber forest products, and payment for ecosystem services.
But conserving forests and ecosystems is no longer enough. Countries have begun looking beyond the loss of trees to the need to restore forest landscapes. That’s why our strategy for sustainable forest management now includes a specific objective on forest and landscape restoration. Read more+
The GEF’s strategy for forests acknowledges that no two countries are alike. They vary in their development goals, technical and institutional capacity, and the extent and nature of forest resources. For that reason, our programs are tailored to the needs of specific countries. On the one hand, our strategy helps countries tackle the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation. On the other, it supports the role of forests in national and local sustainable development plans.
Our funding, for example, helps countries develop strategies around biodiversity and climate change. It also builds readiness for REDD+ (Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and conservation of forest carbon stocks) and the implementation of REDD+ pilot projects. However a country chooses to tackle sustainable forest management, the GEF promotes wide participation among stakeholders. These can range from indigenous and local communities to civil society and the private sector.
The GEF’s holistic approach to forests is in keeping with its role as the financial mechanism for the three Rio Conventions. Further, the importance of forest landscape restoration has been recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). We also support the drive to strengthen political commitment to SFM by anchoring forests in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Our target is to improve management in 20 million ha of forest landscapes through the life of GEF-6 (2014-2018). Ultimately, we want to help transform the way forests are managed globally.
Since its inception in 1992, the GEF has funded at least 380 forest-related projects. Our investment of US$2.1 billion has leveraged US$9.5 billion for sustainable forestry. At the close of GEF-5, most projects and programs were still underway. If they meet expectations, they will improve over 30 million ha of forest landscapes for multiple benefits and services; restore 500,000 ha of forest lands; and prevent the release of 128 million tCO2e and enhance management of 28 million ha of protected areas in forest landscapes. Read more+
The GEF in Action: Early Successes in Sustainable Forestry - One of the GEF’s first projects set aside 360,000 ha to preserve the unique biodiversity in Guyana’s tropical rainforest. In Brazil, an innovative public-private partnership reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent over 10 years. More recently, in 2008, a project strengthened the capacity of countries in the Congo Basin to measure and monitor carbon stocks, helping to qualify them for future funding under the REDD+ program.