U.S. Leadership Advances Global Efforts to Conserve Critical Ecosystems and Protect Carbon Sinks: A Progress Report on Implementing U.S. Efforts on the Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks

At COP26 during the World Leaders Summit Forest Day session on November 2, 2021, the United States announced the Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks . This decade-long, whole-of-government Plan sets forth the U.S. approach to conserving critical global terrestrial carbon sinks, deploying a range of diplomatic, policy, and financing tools. The first-of-its-kind plan for the U.S. government seeks to catalyze the global effort to conserve and restore the forests and other ecosystems that serve as critical carbon sinks. Subject to Congressional appropriations, by 2030, the United States intends to dedicate up to $9 billion of our international climate funding to support the objectives of the Plan.

The United States recognizes that without halting deforestation and other land conversion, and restoring ecosystems at scale, the world cannot reach net zero emissions by 2050 nor limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is not a long-term challenge. It is something we must do immediately in this critical decade.

Forests and other ecosystems could provide as much as one-third of global mitigation by 2030. The Plan to Conserve Global Forests: Critical Carbon Sinks has been devised to catalyze even more ambitious global action to capture that potential by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing carbon sequestration by restoring and enhancing forests and other ecosystems.

Progress in 2022

The Plan reiterates U.S. support for the collective goals to strive to end natural forest loss by 2030 and to significantly increase the rate of global restoration of degraded landscapes and forestlands to restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030, and the collective aim to slow, halt, and reverse forest cover and carbon loss.

Since the launch at COP26, the United States has worked to help drive progress forward in each of the Plan’s four key objectives, building on a whole-of-government approach and partnering with key stakeholders. Amongst this work is a new, systematic interagency effort to coordinate engagement and outyear programming in specific geographies. While all activities underway are too extensive to list here, we have included a summary of some of the most relevant advances under each objective below:

Objective 1: Incentivize forest and ecosystem conservation and forest landscape restoration

Objective 2: Catalyze private sector investment, finance, and action to conserve critical carbon sinks

Objective 3: Build long-term capacity and support the data and monitoring systems that enhance accountability

  • Forest Data Partnership: Announced at COP26, this is a collaboration between the United States, World Resources Institute, Google, and Unilever to address a key barrier to private investment in forests and restoration—the lack of reliable and accessible data on forests and lands. In the last year, Norway announced it would join the partnership, while the United Kingdom conducted an analysis of Transparency and Traceability systems as part of the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue it hosted at COP26.
  • SilvaCarbon: Since COP26, the SilvaCarbon program has provided support to more than 30 countries to enhance monitoring and MRV efforts for forests and other lands. These efforts support better land use decision-making, enhance enforcement against illegal activities, facilitate access to carbon crediting and results-based payments, and inform reporting on national GHG inventories and NDCs.
  • Climate Fellows: The Climate Fellows Program continues to improve land management, conservation, and restoration in forestry by providing technical support to select developing countries. Currently, there are three Climate Fellows, with the first Climate Fellow placed in Fiji in 2021. In 2022, The Climate Fellows Program continued to expand the program’s portfolio as two new hires were selected to be Fellows in Vietnam, beginning in August 2022, and Palau, in November 2022. The Climate Fellow based in Palau will be the first to support “Blue Carbon” efforts to work regionally in the Pacific Islands to measure, monitor, and manage blue carbon ecosystems, like wetlands and mangroves.
  • Engaging Indigenous Communities:
    • In 2022 the Indigenous Peoples Climate Access Facility (IPFAF) launched, with the goal of providing support to indigenous peoples groups around the world to directly access existing finance mechanisms, supporting their efforts to continue to conserve some of the most critical forests on earth.
    • Through the Embassy Science Fellows program, DOI’s Bureau of Indian is facilitating exchanges between Native American tribal experts and counterparts from Indigenous communities in the Bolivian and Brazilian Amazon and the Canadian Arctic. The exchanges focus on approaches to protect and conserve the ecosystems on which they depend and incorporating Indigenous knowledge in climate response decision-making.
  • Combating Nature Crimes: Illegal deforestation, illegal logging, illegal mining and associated crimes are hindering progress on achieving land-based emissions reductions. The United States continues its leadership on combating deforestation and enhancing investments to mitigate climate change, including through: continued enforcement of the U.S. Lacey Act (2008) to combat illegal logging and associated trade, as well as building networks of law enforcement cooperation to build capacity and take action; co-developing the new Nature Crime Alliance to expand partnerships with other countries and stakeholders to combat transnational crimes and address policy failure across sectors, crime types, and stakeholders; dedicating new agency resources for anti-corruption and law enforcement efforts; and the following regional efforts:
    • In 2022, the USFWS coordinated search and seizure warrants and the apprehension of nearly 100 tons of Amazonian hardwoods, in direct cooperation with Brazilian authorities. The transnational investigations triggered by evidence of illegal deforestation on indigenous lands, public corruption, and fraudulent documentation generated in Brazil and presented to U.S. authorities upon import into the United States. The investigations have relied on continued collaboration and expertise provided by Brazilian authorities, including detailed satellite imagery, traceability (origin) studies, and sharing of evidence and internal documents.
    • The U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ) and USFS resumed in-country programming to combat illegal timber trafficking in Cameroon and Gabon, which had been on hold for two years due to COVID pandemic travel restrictions. DOJ and the USFS provided in-country programming for law enforcement officers in Cameroon and separate in-country programming for prosecutors in Gabon. In FY 2023, additional in-country programming will be conducted in both countries as well as other countries in Africa, the Americas, and Asia based on available resources.
    • In 2022, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP), in partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Counter Wildlife Trafficking (USFWS-CWT) Division, supported 14 government officials responsible for CITES implementation from nine countries across Central and East Africa to participate in a rigorous “CITES Master’s Course” program at the International University of Andalucía (UNIA) in Baeza, Spain. The primary objective of the program is to strengthen the technical knowledge and regional collaboration needed for successful global implementation of CITES.
    • In 2022, DOI-ITAP, in collaboration with USFWS and the U.S. Forest Service, supported CITES capacity-building for countries participating in the Central America Wildlife Enforcement Network (CAWEN). A significant focus of this effort in 2022 was development of CITES permit digital systems in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama. These systems will capture endangered timber species, as well as other endangered species of flora and fauna.
    • In 2018, DOI helped establish Guatemala’s first environmental courts in the Peten, Guatemala, which covers the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR). DOI partners with local attorneys who advise the GOG on prosecuting environmental crimes committed in the MBR. With this assistance, in fiscal year 2022 the Government of Guatemala has: recovered 1,193 hectares of MBR usurped lands; another 3,076 hectares in recovery process; sanctioned 10 individuals Q85,000 in environmental fines; and trained 162 technical staff and 115 judiciary staff in Guatemala (e.g., judges and protected area agency legal advisors).

Objective 4: Increase ambition for climate and conservation action

  • Bilateral partnerships: The United States continues to work with partners around the world to support efforts to set and achieve ambitious climate targets, including by addressing drivers of deforestation where applicable. Forests form a core part of our partnerships in countries like Brazil, DRC, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Vietnam.
  • Mobilizing support: The United States is working with a range of government, private sector, and multilateral institutions to identify opportunities to mobilize investment, technical support, and business opportunities to enhance the efforts of countries that are seeking to take ambitious actions to conserve, manage, and restore forests and other ecosystems with the urgency that a 1.5 degree C future demands.

To support these efforts, the United States has dedicated substantial financial resources over the past year, and worked with partners to mobilize additional resources through:

  • Foreign Assistance to support:
    • Starting in 2022, USAID began implementing projects supporting the Plan to Conserve Global Forests, totaling approximately $499.5 million in 50 countries with FY 2020 and FY 2021 funds.
    • In 2022, the Department of State began implementing projects totaling $13 million with FY 2020 funds, and committed an additional $35.05 million in FY 2021 funds to support Plan objectives.
    • The Department of State committed over $1.5 million to monitor and detect illegal logging, investigate and prosecute forest crimes, support science and technology for wood species identification and forensics, and enhance data on illicit trade routes. Since 2010, the U.S. Department of State has allocated over $13 million to support implementation of the U.S. Lacey Act to prevent the import of illegally harvested forest products and has trained over 2,400 officials in 34 countries.
  • Investments in Sustainable Forest Management: The U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) secured five deals to support the conservation, restoration, and/or sustainable use of forests and land in 2022:
    • Provided a guarantee for a sustainable landscape fund, ADM Capital Sustainable Landscape, providing $200 million in financing to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in sustainable agriculture production, land regeneration, and forest protection.
    • Provided a guaranty to promote lending for investments designed to reinforce conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of critical ecosystems through CI Ventures.
    • Provided a guaranty to support financing of projects related to ecosystem restoration, agroforestry, & rural energy through the Livelihoods Carbon Fund.
    • Provided a loan to MCE Empowering Sustainable Agriculture LLC (MESA), a $40 million debt fund providing financing to agribusinesses and rural farmers with a climate lens.
    • Provided a second-loss guarantee for $200 million fund, responsAbility Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems Fund, which makes climate-smart investments for global SMEs operating in four themes across the food system: production, processing & logistics, retail and technology. Additionally, DFC funding of sidecar technical assistance facility.
  • Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act (TFCCA): Under the TFCCA, Treasury concluded (September 30, 2021) a debt-for-nature swap in El Salvador that will direct more than $20 million to forest conservation over 10 years. Treasury is currently negotiating a TFCCA agreement with Peru that will support conservation in the Amazon.

Official reporting on U.S. government finance will be provided in our Biennial Transparency Report submitted under the Paris Agreement.

Advancing Ambition and Action for Ecosystems Through Policy

Beyond these advances, the United States has put its leadership into action in efforts to end forest loss and restore ecosystems at home and abroad and has worked with partners to maintain this issue at the forefront of global policy. Notable examples of key policy developments include:

United States

Executive Order on Strengthening the Nation’s Forests, Communities, and Local Economies : Released on Earth Day, President Biden’s Executive Order expanded this Administration’s historic and bold efforts to tackle the climate crisis, make our nation more resilient to extreme weather, and strengthen local economies by requesting all agencies to develop joint recommendations on:

  • Safeguarding mature and old-growth forests on federal lands, as part of a science-based approach to reduce wildfire risk.
  • Strengthening reforestation partnerships across the country to support local economies and ensure we retain forest ecosystems and sustainable supplies of forest products for years to come.
  • Combating global deforestation to deliver on key COP26 commitments.
  • Enlisting nature to address the climate crisis with comprehensive efforts to deploy nature-based solutions that reduce emissions and build resilience.

Investment in forests and other ecosystems: Across these efforts, the Administration will leverage historic investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as the FY 2022 budget, to direct significant resources to conserve and restore the nation’s forests and other ecosystems, and advance the adoption of climate-smart production practices. These bills, and the associated budgets, facilitate work in partnership with states, Tribal Nations, communities, industry, NGOs, labor, scientists, and private landowners to strengthen our forests while creating good-paying jobs. The Inflation Reduction Act alone supports:

  • Significant funding for the restoration of National Forest System lands, including for hazardous fuels reduction projects;
  • The U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program, which supports conservation easements or land purchases to conserve privately-owned forest land;
  • Efforts to enhance carbon sequestration and resilience through climate-smart agriculture and climate-smart forestry programs;
  • Urban forestry programs, with a particular focus on underserved populations and areas;
  • The Wood Innovation Program, focused on driving innovation in long-lived forest products and bolstering the forest economy.

Proposed legislation: The U.S. Congress has also proposed draft legislation that would support efforts globally to halt forest loss and degradation and bolster efforts to conserve and restore forests. These include:

  • The proposed FOREST Act which would address illegal deforestation driven by the production of export commodities;
  • The proposed Amazon21 Act, which would provide results-based payments for national and subnational-scale programs that successfully reduce emissions from forests and other lands, and enhance sequestration.

Multilateral and Plurilateral

The United States also joined other governments in adopting and implementing a series of measures that reinforce the collective aim to halt forest loss and degradation and restore ecosystems. These include:

  • Glasgow Leaders Declaration: Signed by 145 countries at COP26, the Glasgow Leaders Declaration on Forests and Land Use emphasized the critical and interdependent roles of forests of all types, biodiversity, and sustainable land use in enabling the world to meet its sustainable development goals and committed to enhancing efforts to conserve critical ecosystems to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
  • Nature-Based Solutions Resolution: Adopted at the 5th United Nations Environment Assembly in February 2022, the Nature-based Solutions (NbS) Resolution provides the first multilaterally agreed definition of NbS, as well as recognition of their ability to contribute to climate action.
  • G7 Environment Communique : The 2022 G7 Environment Communique highlighted the importance of addressing land use, land-use change, and forestry for achieving climate and biodiversity objectives.
  • Summit of the Americas “Our Sustainable Green Future Declaration”:  The “Green Future Declaration” announced at the Summit of the Americas, demonstrated Leaders’ efforts to strengthen cooperation and efforts to advance the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use, national deforestation and conservation commitments, and regional efforts to halt and reverse deforestation and conserve, sustainably manage, and use ecosystems.
  • Declaration on U.S. – Pacific Partnership: At the White House U.S.-Pacific Islands Summit, the declaration between the United States and Pacific included commitments to expand cooperation to enhance the development of the sustainable blue economy, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, labor, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, trade, tourism, and addressing supply chains issues and food security.

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