New public-private coalition launched to mobilize more than $1 billion to protect tropical forests and enhance global climate action

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22 April, 2021

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WBCSD Communications

Washington, DC., 22 April 2021 – Today at the Leaders Summit on Climate a group of governments and companies announced the LEAF Coalition, an ambitious new public-private initiative designed to accelerate climate action by providing results-based finance to countries committed to protecting their tropical forests. This initiative aims to mobilize at least $1 billion in financing, kicking off what is expected to become one of the largest ever public-private efforts to help protect tropical forests, to the benefit of billions of people depending on them, and to support sustainable development.

“The LEAF Coalition is a groundbreaking example of the scale and type of collaboration that is needed to fight the climate crisis and achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050. Bringing together government and private-sector resources is a necessary step in supporting the large-scale efforts that must be mobilized to halt deforestation and begin to restore tropical and subtropical forests.” said Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest finance (LEAF) Coalition is an initiative with initial participation from the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, the United States, and leading companies including Amazon, Airbnb, BayerBoston Consulting GroupGSKMcKinseyNestlé, Salesforce, and Unilever. Participants in the Coalition will support high-quality emissions reductions from tropical and subtropical forest countries, enabling efforts to reduce and end deforestation. Emergent, a US non-profit organization, will provide a platform to facilitate transactions and serve as the administrative coordinator of LEAF. LEAF aims to expand to include support from additional countries and companies in the months ahead. The final list of governments and companies participating in this initiative, and the total financial support mobilized through the Coalition, will be announced when emissions reduction purchase agreements are signed with tropical forest countries by the end of the year.

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister said: “The world’s tropical forests are the lungs of our planet and yet we are losing these great, teeming ecosystems at an unconscionable rate. This is having a devastating impact on the billions of people who rely on forests for their livelihoods and sustenance and is setting back our efforts to tackle climate change. Time is running out to protect our tropical forests from irreversible loss and limit global warming to 1.5°C. That is why the UK is proud to have joined our partners in the hugely exciting LEAF Coalition, galvanising business investment and working hand-in-hand with forest countries to stop deforestation, cut global greenhouse gas emissions and put nature on the path to recovery.”

Tropical forests are indispensable to fight climate change and biodiversity loss, and have received far less attention and finance than they deserve. Today, the LEAF Coalition takes a first, crucial step to change that”, said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “Finally, tropical forest countries can be assured that financial rewards are available if they can demonstrate reduced deforestation. I am delighted that big companies are now stepping up to provide this finance in addition to cutting their own emissions.”

Ending tropical deforestation by 2030 is a crucial part of meeting global climate, biodiversity and sustainable development goals. Tropical forests have an invaluable role to play by absorbing carbon from the atmosphere.1Protecting tropical forests offers one of the biggest opportunities for climate action in the coming decade –providing almost a quarter of cost-effective mitigation by 2030.

The motivation behind LEAF is to raise global climate ambition and contribute to tropical forest protection. Tropical forests around the world are under threat. The destruction of primary rainforest increased by 12 percent from 2019 to 2020. Overall, the world lost more than 4.4 million hectares of primary tropical forest cover last year, an area larger than the size of Switzerland.

Participating companies are already committed to deep voluntary cuts in their own greenhouse gas emissions in line with science-based targets and consistent with the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Their contributions to the LEAF Coalition come in addition to, and not as a substitute for, internal emissions reductions. The LEAF Coalition is an avenue for companies to support additional and urgently needed climate action in tropical forest countries, supporting them to achieve increasingly ambitious national climate targets, known under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

to 2020. Overall, the world lost more than 4.4 million hectares of primary tropical forest cover last year, an area larger than the size of Switzerland.3Participating companies are already committed to deep voluntary cuts in their own greenhouse gas emissions in line with science-based targets and consistent with the long-term temperature goals of the Paris Agreement. Their contributions to the LEAF Coalition come in addition to, and not as a substitute for, internal emissions reductions. The LEAF Coalition is an avenue for companies to support additional and urgently needed climate action in tropical forest countries, supporting them to achieve increasingly ambitious national climate targets, known under the Paris Agreement as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

Bharrat Jagdeo, Vice President of Guyana said: “The Government of Guyana welcomes the launch of LEAF. Tropical forest countries have long called for the ecosystem services provided by the world’s standing tropical forests to be properly valued, through both public and private finance. This will enable people who live in forests and forest countries to create jobs and economic opportunity from an economy that works with nature, instead of today’s reality where forests are often worth more dead than alive. If this new economy is to be more attractive than the old economy, LEAF must also catalyze funds that flow quickly and efficiently. The systems to enable this can only be successful if forest countries are involved in their design -and we stand ready to work with the LEAF Coalition to achieve the innovation required.”

Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica said: “Costa Rica is deeply committed to leveraging nature-based solutions as a key component of our efforts to build a future that is just, decarbonized, adapted and resilient. We welcome the launch of the LEAF Coalition and especially its timely results-based finance windows which provide necessary support for countries with high-ambition NDCs such as ours. We look forward to collaborating in this new effort, in the spirit of the San Jose Principles, focused on environmental integrity and high ambition.”

Ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders —in particular, Indigenous Peoples and local communities —is a key principle for the LEAF Coalition. LEAF participants and forest country partners will work together to ensure forest protection plans will respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples and members of local communities. Emergent, along with Coalition participants, will be seeking views and input from Indigenous Peoples and other stakeholders over the next few months prior to the conclusion of any purchase agreements.

The power of this Coalition is the example it sets, in particular for companies, whose participation is needed to mobilize the funding needed to protect tropical forests. The LEAF Coalition sets a high standard for how companies can supplement deep cuts in their own emissions by investing in additional emission reductions from tropical and subtropical forests and also by ensuring that the rights of indigenous peoples who have and who continue to protect these forests are respected and fulfilled. These emissions reductions are not a substitute –but come in addition to –deep cuts in emissions from their own value chains in line with science-based reduction targets,” said Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Executive Director of Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).

Christiana Figueres, the UN’s former climate chief and founding partner of Global Optimism said, “Now is the time for leaders in both the public and private sector to incentivize the protection and restoration of nature, for a better chance of limiting temperature increase to 1.5C. Today’s Coalition announcement delivers new finance flows toward eliminating tropical deforestation at scale, improving community resilience and governance, increasing biodiversity–all necessary to thrive beyond the climate crisis.”

“Ending forest loss by 2030 is critical to addressing every environmental challenge we face, from climate change and biodiversity loss, to the pollution crisis.But for this to happen we need to put the right price on carbon because we know that when pollution is taxed, industries shift.I welcome the establishment of the LEAF Coalition –an ambitious initiative that will make available on a large-scale –the finance we need to conserve and sustainably use our forests,in a way that sees it as an addition to, and not a substitute, for deep cuts in emissions. Financing our forests is financing the sustainable development goals.” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Before funding is provided to any country, an independent third-party will verify that deforestation —and the associated greenhouse gas emissions —has been reduced across entire countries, states or provinces, known collectively as “jurisdictions.” If a jurisdiction has protected forests in one part of its territory, while significant deforestation occurs in another part, that jurisdiction will not qualify for LEAF financing.

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our planet, and the LEAF Coalition offers us an opportunity to bring together governments and companies to fight it,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO“In uniting behind a common cause, the countries and companies of the coalition have a chance to end deforestation by 2030. As founders of The Climate Pledge –a commitment to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement 10 years early –we’re excited to support this important initiative and encourage others to do the same.”

“Airbnb is proud to participate in the LEAF Coalition and work to protect our planet’s tropical forests and biodiversity. Protecting tropical forests is a vital step in reducing global carbon emissions and the LEAF Coalition is a great example of how governments and businesses can work together to tackle the climate crisis.” said Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO, Airbnb.