Resilience Dispatch #14: Be So Big They Can’t Ignore Us

Feb 1, 2021

In this edition

Be So Big They Can’t Ignore Us

Dear Friends,

Why is it so hard to protect tropical forests? After all, we know that we should. Forests are the only way we follow through on Paris Agreement goals. Without forests and other natural climate solutions helping to reduce and remove our excess carbon emissions, a transition to a low-carbon economy likely becomes too expensive for politicians and companies to stick with in these crucial coming decades. Forests are our great library of biodiversity. They are our buffer against new zoonotic diseases like COVID-19.

But forests are also still worth more in today’s economy when they are cut down than they are standing.

Take the price of carbon, for example.

“Today the market only recognizes a very low price for forest carbon credits – only five to seven dollars,” Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Global Environment Facility, told the United Nations Environmental Assembly last week. “But in Costa Rica it takes $17 to [create an] offset for a ton of carbon. We need to generate a price of carbon that matches the opportunity cost of cattle ranching.”

In other words, we need to fix the market failure that destroys ancient forests in favor of ever-cheaper commodities. “There is a number where the economics for conservation becomes overwhelmingly compelling,” as our own Rupert Edwards and our partners in the Green Gigaton Challenge wrote on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda this week.

What’s the magic number? We think one gigaton is a very good start. The Green Gigaton Challenge is building a coalition to secure commitments to buy one gigaton of carbon emissions reductions every year from tropical forest countries, starting in 2025. One gigaton of annual emissions reductions is equivalent to taking 80% of the cars off American roads. It is about half of the additional emissions cuts needed each year in this decade to keep global warming below 2 degrees. And it is only possible if enough countries, companies, and funders work together to send a coordinated signal in favor of forests.

Our partner Emergent has put together a video on the Green Gigaton Challenge, which I share below – enjoy! And after you watch it, please get in touch if you’d like to be a part of this effort.

Of course, economic incentives are of course only a piece of the puzzle. To stop the loss of the world’s forests, we need better scientific data and communities that know how to harness it. We need secure land and carbon rights for indigenous and traditional communities. We need governments to enforce existing laws, and to pass new laws that make bad business models (like clear-cutting forests for beef and palm oil production) obsolete, at the same time that we lift up a new kind of economy.

This Resilience Dispatch is the first in a series we’re rolling out this spring, looking at each of these elements in turn. We’ll be talking to experts and innovators about how they’re solving these challenges, and sharing stories about activists and entrepreneurs at forest frontiers around the world. With each piece, we’ll build a global agenda for forests and climate.

Be well,



Could 2021 be a turning point for forests and climate change?

Gabriel Labbate, Global Team Leader, UNEP/UN-REDD
Rupert Edwards, Senior Finance and Carbon Advisor, Forest Trends
Ruben Lubowski, Chief Natural Resource Economist, Environmental Defense Fund
Jacinto Coello, Programme Management Officer, UN Environment

Originally published by the World Economic Forum.

There is a good possibility that 2021 may turn out to be the spring after a long, dark winter. The light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel now appears within reach. The largest economy in the world has rejoined the international community in fighting climate change. The second largest economy has committed to a carbon neutrality target. The climate ambitions of the EU not only survived the pandemic, but rather got bigger and bolder.

Private sector commitments to net-zero are growing very rapidly indeed (often under pressure from governments). More companies are taking steps to address their climate risks and impacts, resulting in strong demand potential for offsets as a supplementary tool alongside internal de-carbonization. This renewed sense of optimism is an opportunity not to be wasted.

However, if we are going to make 2021 a turning point for forests and climate change, we need to adjust our strategy. Delivering the full mitigation potential of forests will require as much ambition as it will require pragmatism and recognizing where the opportunities lie for a quantum shift in scale, funding and results. We need to concentrate efforts and attention on coming together to support an ambitious objective for COP-26 and embrace flexibility on scaling-up finance to protect and restore tropical forests.

Setting a measurable and ambitious objective for COP-26

We propose that COP-26 delivers a public-private bid for one gigaton of high-quality emissions reductions with a floor price for forest carbon starting at $10/tCO₂e and adjusted gradually upwards over time. This would represent an unmistakable signal of financial ambitions and be a powerful force to help change the economics and politics of deforestation in many parts of the world so as to make conservation and sustainable use of forests an attractive alternative. Success in delivering one gigaton of emissions reductions would in turn catalyse further even larger-scale private and public funding commitments. We are calling this the Green Gigaton Challenge.

Keep reading at the World Economic Forum.

Green Gigaton Challenge Partners


Learn more and get involved

We’ve put together a primer on the Green Gigaton Challenge – download a copy here.Visit the Green Gigaton Challenge website to learn more about how you can participate – whether you’re a company, climate funder, government, or civil society.