The One Forest Summit held in Libreville, Gabon, on March 1-2, has established a new fund to reward countries for “exemplary” action  to protect their forests, safeguard their vital stocks of carbon and preserve their biodiversity, as it called for a “fair deal” between forested countries and the international community.

The Positive Conservation Partnerships fund has been seeded with 100 million euros, funded by France, Conservation International and the Walton Foundation, and will allow countries to issue “biodiversity certificates” which can be purchased by sovereign states or private actors as their contribution to the protection of nature.

The conference brought together eight heads of state, ministers from 10 other nations, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, and representatives of the European Commission, as well as business leaders and environmentalists, to create a sustainable plan to conserve the world’s major rainforests, which are home to some of the world’s most diverse species and play a vital role in limiting planet-warming emissions.

Hosted by Gabon and attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, the summit adopted the “Libreville Plan” aimed at creating a unified vision and action plan to protect and sustainably manage these critical ecosystems, following on from the 2022 United Nations Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal, Canada last December and known as COP 15.

“In the aftermath of COP15, we need a ‘fair agreement’ between the international community, whose future depends on the preservation of carbon and biodiversity sinks, and forest countries, which legitimately wish to reconcile environmental ambition and economic prosperity for their populations,” the document said.

It listed five pillars of that “fair deal,” which were:

  1. political commitment to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030;
  2. the principle of coexistence between mankind and nature;
  3. an environmental ambition that benefits people;
  4. a commitment to protecting what is vital, including mangroves, peat bogs and certain primary forests supporting vital ecosystems and species such as gorillas, orangutans, elephants and jaguars;
  5. and remuneration to forest countries for the services they render to the rest of the world.

Leaders address the need for innovative financing for nature-based solutions

The summit highlighted the urgent need to protect forests as they play a crucial role in mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity. Forests are the largest carbon sink on the planet and support over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

The summit threw its weight behind a report launched by the Global Environment Facility and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) that called for supporting and scaling up innovative nature finance.

In particular, the report called for the creation of a new market in biodiversity-positive carbon credits, and nature certificates or credits, to “help close the significant gap in funding for the safeguarding and restoration of biodiversity and benefit Indigenous People and local communities.”

“Biodiversity-positive carbon credits and nature certificates have the potential to unlock additional financing from a range of sources, including private sector companies that have made commitments to be nature-positive and support a net zero transition,” said Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Global Environment Facility.  “We need to learn from past work on carbon credits to create a single, unified forest credit system that factors in both climate and biodiversity concerns.”

At the summit,  a coalition of states, investors, certifiers and non-governmental organizations launched a Libreville work plan to  accelerate the structuring of a very high environmental- and social-quality carbon credit market, on the scale of projects or national policies and initiatives.

At the summit, Gabon also stressed its efforts to preserve its forests, as the most carbon-positive country on earth, with one of the highest rates of forest cover and the lowest rates of deforestation.

It has recently launched its own biodiversity-positive carbon credits, covering 91 million tonnes of reduced emissions between 2010 and 2018, certified through the United Nations REDD+ initiative that aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

Watch: Cutting carbon emissions and protecting biodiversity: Gabon issues carbon credits to help protect its forests

Yannick Glemarec, executive director of the Green Climate Fund said there was a “very strong recognition” that biodiversity-positive carbon credits as well as nature certificates have a very strong potential to finance the conservation of ecosystems, “but they need to be integrated into much broader financial and regulatory schemes in order to guarantee their integrity.”

Glemarec almost all the speakers at the summit stressed the importance of the Congo Basin.

“If we don’t preserve the Congo Basin we could increase the average global temperature by up to four to five degrees Celsius and we would create a completely uninhabitable world,” he said. “And another point is that we have no more time to lose and we must act at all costs.”

Gabon’s forests are part of the Congo-Ogooué Basin, the largest carbon sink in the world, absorbing even more carbon dioxide than the Amazon rainforest. Gabon’s forests are also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including gorillas, chimpanzees, forest elephants, and leopards.

At Libreville, different sectors of society also came together to make concrete commitments to protect forests.

  • The scientific community launched the “ One Forest Vision ” project, which aims to better understand the value of the forest, by mapping over the next five years the vital reserves of carbon and global biodiversity and by measuring the level of carbon sequestration of tropical forests.
  • Around fifty business leaders , gathered in a “One Forest Business Forum”, launched the 10 by 30 initiative , which aims to create 10 million jobs in activities related to sustainable forest management by 2030.
  • Gabon, France and Canada launched an intergovernmental platform on the sustainable use of wood and bio-based materials in construction, in order to help replace concrete and cement and transform construction strategies in Africa’s urbanization. Six other countries joined this coalition: Cambodia, Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Zambia.
  • Young representatives and leaders from the Congo Basin organized the One Forest Youth Summit to provide heads of state and government with recommendations and proposals for concrete projects to promote the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests.

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