Global Forests need Global Governance and Market Recognition

The new Broader Market Recognition Coalition is a key practical development to incentivise and deliver strong tropical forest governance, writes David Hopkins, Timber Development UK chief executive.

As COP climate talks have widened their agendas over the years, the role of forests and forestry has assumed ever greater importance for meeting carbon targets.

Each year seems to bring to bring a new announcement from world leaders pledging government and corporate cash for halting or reversing forest – along with evidence that we are failing to meet pledges made previously. Forests are so important to the global climate, yet fundamentally neglected in policy. Little of the grand rhetoric is ever matched in reality.

The New York Declaration on Forests in 2014 – where 39 countries pledged to halve deforestation by 2020 – is a good example. Instead of deforestation being halved, it rose by almost 20% among signatory countries in the following years.

Part of the problem lies in the focus on headline grabbing figures rather than addressing fundamentals of having strong, legal frameworks within which national sustainable forestry systems can operate. Without the governance, there is nothing of substance to invest into and nothing to ensure forests you invest in today will still be standing tomorrow.

It’s this essential first step that many eye catching pledges fail to address. Yet, the only states which are seeing a drop in deforestation are those with proper national standards for forestry management and production.

This is where a new initiative – the Broader Market Recognition Coalition (BMRC) – comes in. Founded at a policy forum in Bali earlier this year, and building on the work of the Tropical Timber Accord launched at COP26 by TDUK and others, the BMRC seeks to encourage development and implementation of national forestry standards and verification systems.

Core functions of BMRC are to establish a robust framework to endorse these national standards of participating countries and promote international recognition of them to boost trade, so incentivising further development of sustainable forestry systems.

BMRC builds on progress made by tropical countries under the FLEGT regime. Although this is now being superseded by the EU Deforestation Regulation, the FLEGT process has 20 years of practical policy experience in developing an operational framework for market recognition of national forest programmes. Its achievements should not be overlooked in the rush for something new.

Stakeholders representing six tropical countries are working on the BMRC initiative, with a larger outer circle of influential nations, including China and the UK (via TDUK), to help with wider input and political recognition. Political recognition will be vital to driving the process, from multi-stakeholder engagement processes through to market recognition, and to attracting investment into tropical forest enterprises.

The BMRC website – www.forestgovernance.org – will be launched with a roadmap for action in November, with a campaign to build further support during 2024.

We need to maintain this momentum through the trade to support the work being developed by producer countries. It is only when they own their own forestry systems and see the genuine benefits on the ground, that we will start to make good on grandiose pledges made at international summits.

Article originally written for and posted on the TTJ.