Yesterday may have been the 6th Forest Day at the UNFCCC COP18, but the buzzword of the day was ‘Landscape.’ Peter Holmgren, Director General of the Center on International Forestry Research (CIFOR), extolled the past six years of Forest Days for putting forests on the international climate agenda, while stressing theme of Living Landscapes; the need to look for new ways to cross sectoral boundaries and look at the forest in the context of agriculture, food security, and development.
Forests, of course, remained a focal point of the day, with REDD+ holding a prominent place, and yet the thread of integration and systems thinking was woven throughout many presentations and discussions. Will Steffen (Climate Change Initiative, Australia National University) argued for planning beyond climate, thinking about “Earth Systems,” and approaching our many challenges in terms of “Planetary Boundaries.” At ground level, Matthew Wyatt (UK Department for International Development) raised the issue of how different ministries and stakeholder groups, from developing to developed countries, still operate in isolation.
Perhaps because of this transition from the sectoral silos of forests and agriculture to a landscapes perspective, big-picture issues dominated the discourse of the day. Speakers and panels attempted to lay a background understanding, building on a sound foundation of forest experience for attendees. Inherently, this transition also raised many concerns, obstacles, and unknowns over the course of the day. Queries ranged from what a landscape is to implementation of the landscape approach. A high-level panel in the afternoon addressed questions of institutional structure, the feasibility of combining several sectors, and aligning with donor priorities. Robert Nasi (CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees, and Agroforestry), recognized that “multifunctional landscapes” are key, and yet we don’t know how to do that yet. But, he noted, we know enough to start. This last point is key; and more importantly, we have started.
While the international climate community may just now be commencing this conversation of landscapes, the thinking around how to better inform and actually implement and scale-up whole landscape approaches is taking place now. That is the mandate of the Landscapes for People, Food and Nature Initiative, which is already showing precedence for the approach and lessons to scaling up.
Last June, for Rio+20 Earth Summit, the Initiative issued a Call to Action for the development community. Yesterday was perhaps the wake-up call for the wider climate change community.
Do you have burning questions on Integrated Landscape Approaches or Climate-Smart Landscapes, or concerns you’d like to raise? Leave a comment below. Coverage of COP18 topics continues all week. Stay tuned.