By Richard Donovan, Vice President of Sustainable Forestry, Rainforest Alliance
Much like IFLs, there is broad support, in principle, for forest restoration through the FSC system. We still lack consensus on the path forward to widespread restoration, but the Rainforest Alliance believes the FSC system should stand solidly behind restoration, and publicly position itself as its champion. We are currently supporting the first stages of creating a verification framework for sound restoration, in collaboration with organizations like WRI, WeForest, PARTNERS and TreeSisters.
Reasons for enshrining forest restoration in the FSC system are many and diverse. Throughout this General Assembly we have seen much discussion about enhanced inclusion of Indigenous peoples in FSC—robust forest restoration throughout FSC-certified forests provides opportunity for Indigenous peoples to maintain or expand forests within ICLs.
For increased biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and carbon sequestration, forest restoration is an obvious step in the right direction. Article 5 of the Paris Agreement explicitly calls for forest protection to reduce the impacts of climate change—but without expanding forests’ capabilities as a carbon sink through restoration, we will not meet our greenhouse gas reduction goals.
Economically, forest restoration could integrate nicely with a future payment for ecosystem services (PES) mechanism. Though PES is still in the pilot phase, initial testing suggests promising results. Restoration also offers the possibility for certificate holders to enter the forest-carbon credit and finance marketplace. Importantly, restoration is a very marketable and easily communicated story to consumers. When combined with impact data, forest restoration is a relatable and emotional subject for consumers, and could increase consumer awareness of the FSC brand.
And finally, restoration would help drive the FSC mission to protect forests for the future.
However, we also recognize that restoration is complicated. It requires a lot of time and resources to do the requisite local and landscape-level analyses and stakeholder engagement. There’s no single way to restore a forest landscape. Much more than “just planting trees,” restoration could include agroforestry, protecting naturally regenerating forests, or incorporating managed plantations—or all of the above.
So what could restoration within FSC look like? There is the proposal set forth by 2017 Motion 7, which would require organizations which have been involved with large-scale conversions between 1994 and 2017 to restore the forest as a part of achieving certification. Perhaps there is an opportunity for companies to gain extra recognition or financial support for restoration work. Perhaps restoration can be an incentive to participate in PES. Or perhaps FSC can become the leading forest certification system for auditing and approving forest restoration projects.
We think it is important for the FSC to send a strong global message in support of forest restoration around the globe. To us at the Rainforest Alliance, it is clear there is room within the system to incorporate forest restoration. For the reasons stated above, we are supporting FSC GA Motion 19.