Resilience Dispatch #3: What Does the COVID-19 Pandemic Mean for Climate?; We’re Partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to Plant 1 Million Trees and Support Indigenous Livelihoods

Apr 1, 2020
Our 12-month training program for indigenous leaders strengthens communities’ ability
to govern large indigenous territories and protect biodiversity in the face of growing
social and economic pressures. The program, run together by Forest Trends and WWF,
is active in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

In this edition

We are entering our fourth week of social distancing and remote work here in Washington DC. As we try to make sense of a strange new normal, and begin thinking about the long process of recovery in the coming months and years, I keep returning to the idea of resilience.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown us the fragility of many of our systems. An interview in this week’s dispatch with Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, one of the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement, looks at building stronger, more resilient systems as we move ahead on national recovery packages and international climate negotiations. I felt re-energized after my conversation with Manuel, and I think you will too.

If you’ve missed previous editions of the dispatch, you can find some highlights here:

Stay well,

Michael Jenkins

What Does the COVID-19 Pandemic Mean for Climate? A Conversation with Manuel Pulgar-Vidal

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal
Michael Jenkins

Forest Trends’ CEO Michael Jenkins sat down last week (virtually, at least) with Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, leader of WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice, for a wide-ranging conversation about the effects COVID-19 is having on climate negotiations, recovery planning, and leadership in turbulent times.

Michael Jenkins:

Thank you Manuel for sitting down to talk. For our readers, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is the former Minister of State for Environment for Peru. Manuel was the President of the COP in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement, and I think it’s fair to say Manuel was one of the leading architects of the Paris Climate Agreement. He has been a long-time environmental lawyer and was part of the group that started the Peruvian Environmental Law Society (SPDA). And of course he is part of Forest Trends’ Board of Directors.

Manuel, we’ve just heard formally that the COP in Glasgow is postponed until 2021. I’d like to talk about the expectations that we had leading into Glasgow. What were we hoping to achieve by November of this year in Scotland?

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal:

2020 is the year we enter a new phase for countries’ climate plans, which are called Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs.

It’s good that we’re having this conversation now, because actually just a few minutes ago Chile released its new NDC. It’s interesting, because it’s so ambitious. Right now Chile is going through a very, very intense political and social crisis. It’s facing demonstrations in the streets, and now it’s facing COVID-19. But despite all of these crises, Chile has been able to demonstrate its climate responsibility.

And on the opposite side, we have Japan. Japan one week ago put its NDC on the table, which is even weaker than its first NDC from several years ago.

Michael Jenkins:

It’s like we have two signals of what the coronavirus could mean.  One is Chile, a developing country coming forward with an aggressive NDC in spite of the virus and the social unrest in that country. On the other hand, we have Japan, a developed country that’s stepping back on their climate responsibility.

Manuel Pulgar:

Everyone knows coronavirus is going to create economic difficulties around the world. And many countries have already started to prepare their recovery packages. The risk is that these recovery packages could exclude climate considerations or relax environmental protections, when it should be the opposite.

Michael Jenkins:

What does postponing the COP until 2021 mean for action around climate? Are you worried about that?

Manuel Pulgar:

It’s very reasonable to postpone it. But it shouldn’t mean that we’re going to postpone our climate responsibility. We shouldn’t think of 2020 as a black hole.

Let me use an analogy. When a student goes to their teacher and says, “Please postpone the next exam. I’m not ready.” What happens? The teacher might say, “Okay, but I’m expecting even better results.”

It’s the same here. We stay committed. We should include climate and nature in national recovery packages. The key actors should be sending a strong political signal, making clear what we can expect at COP-26 next year.

If we don’t, the risk is that we could have a new pandemic really, really soon. This will happen again if we don’t address the underlying sources: temperature change, habitat loss, illegal trade in wildlife, and consumption of wildlife.

Read the full conversation here.

We’re Partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to Plant One Million Trees and Support Indigenous Livelihoods

The Arbor Day Foundation and Forest Trends, working in direct partnership with indigenous communities, will plant one million trees in nine indigenous lands in Brazil. The partnership will utilize agroforestry techniques, which increase carbon storage and support biodiversity in forests while increasing food security in communities. Marketable crops like açai, Brazil nut, cocoa, and babassu will also provide sustainable income for those managing restoration areas.

The planned reforestation work will include over 70 species and span 1.5 million hectares of the Brazilian Amazon (nearly 5,800 square miles).

“We are proud to be expanding our global planting efforts in partnership with Forest Trends, and believe this ambitious project represents the power and importance of trees and forests.” said Dan Lambe, president of the Arbor Day Foundation.” “This work in Brazil will advance the success and sustainability of indigenous communities as they lead creative efforts through planting and forest management.”

“Indigenous Peoples are critical stewards of the world’s forests. Their wisdom spans forest conservation, traditional knowledge and use of medicinal plants, and a way of life that is in harmony with nature, rather than infringing upon it,” said Beto Borges, Director of Forest Trends’ Communities and Territorial Governance Initiative. “Who could ask for better partners as we face this global crisis, and learn how to rebuild resilient communities in its aftermath?”

Read a press release here.

April is Earth Month

Earth Day is April 22, 2020. Arbor Day is April 24, 2020.

This week, why not get ready to celebrate by ordering seedlings from your local nursery or (if you’re in the US) the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery? Enter your zip code for recommendations on which species to plant.

Little ones at home that you’re trying to keep occupied? The Arbor Day Foundation’s Carly’s Kids Corner has load of digital games, printable activities, and resources for your junior arborist.

The world lost a great singer and songwriter, John Prine, last week to COVID-19. Rest in peace, John.