A summit in favor of climate action and biodiversity preservation
As President and Founder of Reforest'Action, Stéphane Hallaire participated in the One Forest Summit on March 1 and 2, 2023, in Libreville, Gabon. This summit was a pivotal moment. Indeed, it did not aim to adopt new political declarations but rather to implement the commitments made in Glasgow during COP 26 - to reduce and reverse deforestation by 2030, and during COP adopted on December 19, 2022, at the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity (COP15) in Montreal - to protect 30% of the land and sea.
This summit also aimed to promote the contribution of tropical forests - particularly those in Africa, which are relatively unknown to the public. Note that by sequestering millions of tons of CO2, forest basins play a critical role in climate regulation. With their exceptional flora and fauna, they harbor biodiversity treasures and play a crucial role in preventing the emergence of new epidemics. Tropical forests are home to 80% of the world's terrestrial biodiversity and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. As a result, forests are the world's second-largest carbon sink after the oceans: they drink twice as much CO2 as they emit. On top of it, behind the Amazon, the Congo Basin is the second largest forest massif. It is the ecological lung of the planet, with its 220 million hectares of forests spread across several countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, and Gabon. It alone absorbs 3 tons of CO2 every second. It is 88% covered by the equatorial forest, one of the two main green lungs of the planet. However, this "green lung" is threatened by agricultural and industrial overexploitation, particularly logging, oil, and mining. On its territory, it is committed to protecting one-third of the natural areas, both terrestrial and marine: an objective that France is carrying internationally with the High Ambition for Nature and People coalition, launched with Costa Rica and the United Kingdom, which now includes about one hundred countries.
Eventually, it was also an international summit that placed the question of the development of natural capital at the heart of the debates. The large forest areas are indeed "global public goods," according to the Elysée, which public and private actors must preserve.
A summit at the origin of the Libreville Plan
The One Forest Summit brought together more than 20 heads of state representing the major forest basins, members of the scientific community, African youth, business leaders, and representatives of indigenous populations. It also hosted leaders from UNESCO, IUCN, the Global Environment Facility, and the Green Climate Fund.
The exchanges led by these stakeholders resulted in the Libreville Plan, i.e., concrete commitments and initiatives. Indeed, the stakeholders sought to find a fair agreement: not only by seeking to reconcile environmental protection and support for the economy (1°) but also by considering the forest as being at the service of development (2°).
1° Reconciling environmental protection and economic support
Several measures have been adopted in this sense:
- Support for "positive conservation partnerships" (PCP):
This PCP mechanism represents a political and financial contract between the international community and countries agreeing to keep vital carbon and biodiversity reserves intact. At the operational level, it is an investment plan: remuneration will be provided to these countries in exchange for the protection of the forests. Indeed, in return for the commitment of forest countries, the international community will make available more funding, but also a mechanism for remuneration of services rendered by Nature kept intact, including carbon sequestration.
To initiate favorable conservation contracts tomorrow and bring the first tangible results to COP28 in Dubai, France, Conservation International, and the Walton Foundation announced the creation of a first investment for PCP contracts of 100 million euros. France will provide 50 million euros of this fund. The Walton Foundation and Conservation International will finance the rest.
However, based on the recommendations of the Global Environment Facility, the contours of this innovative new financing tool - including a combined logic with carbon credits (one tree planted, one tree saved) - have yet to be defined to guarantee the complete environmental integrity of a potential biodiversity certificate market. Indeed, countries that want this aid will receive "biodiversity certificates" granted for "services rendered by nature kept intact" - purchased by states or private actors.
- Accelerating the structuring of a market for carbon credits of very high environmental and social quality at the level of projects or national policies and initiatives:
These carbon credits could finance projects with positive impacts on the climate: keeping carbon in the soil or supporting biodiversity while benefiting local populations. In addition, the certificate mechanism will signal to both sovereign states and even private actors that they can reimburse these countries for their efforts if it is possible to guarantee that this is a solid commitment that will last over time.
2° Considering the forest as being at the service of development
The Libreville Plan indirectly recognizes the multifunctionality of forests. It thus values its role in development. Indeed, it aims to reconcile economic growth and environmental protection by identifying the ecological and economic benefits brought to local populations. Furthermore, tropical forests provide an invaluable service to local people and humanity by offering numerous resources, sequestering carbon, and sheltering biodiversity hotspots. Therefore, various measures have been adopted in the Libreville Plan:
- The development of tools promoting sustainable forest management: strong protection such as national parks, sustainable management of natural resources, protection of vital carbon and biodiversity reserves such as mangroves. The launch of the 10by30 initiative is expected to create 10 million jobs related to sustainable forest management by 2030 - by promoting agroforestry coupled with agro-industrial activities, adopting circular economy principles in supply chains, or developing dedicated fuelwood plantations to curb deforestation.
- Promoting sustainable value chains in the forestry sector.
- Considering Indigenous populations as the first sentinels of the forest: through their knowledge and ancestral traditions and through the unique relationship they witness between Man and Nature. Uganda, France, and Gabon have thus launched a coalition "One Forest Guardian" aiming to propose to voluntary countries to inscribe by 2024 on the UNESCO World Heritage list these practices of inestimable value for the future of humanity.
- Advancing knowledge and promoting scientific cooperation on forest ecosystems by creating the One Forest Vision project to map three critical tropical forests: the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and Southeast Asia. The objective is to measure the impact on carbon and biodiversity.
A summit recognizing the role of public and private actors in preserving forests - these "global public goods."
French President Emmanuel Macron wants to make the One Forest Summit an annual event to continue to guide global climate action by public and private actors to preserve these critical carbon sinks. As he pointed out, forests represent "a precious common good" at the global level: they constitute 50 to 75% of the Earth's biodiversity. They are the second largest carbon sink on the planet. This world summit in favor of the preservation and sustainable management of tropical forests has therefore put at the heart of the debate the issue of the valuation of natural capital by public and private actors and the multifunctionality of forests.
In this context, Reforest'Action is pleased to note that financing quality carbon projects is an essential prerequisite for achieving the objectives of global carbon neutrality - although it is not an end. Indeed, adequate financing must go well beyond carbon impact. It must include promoting and preserving biodiversity and allowing for the development of benefits for local populations - something that the Libreville Plan constructively encourages. Furthermore, financing quality carbon projects must be unrestricted from economic actors' necessary reduction of CO2 emissions.
Finally, this summit was also an opportunity for Stéphane Hallaire to exchange with members of the French, Rwandan, and Costa Rican governments on current best practices that would allow for the rapid and effective implementation of forest ecosystem protection and restoration. The fact that this summit brings together private and public actors contributes to aligning political will with economic issues. The next COP and the future meetings in 2023 will allow concrete progress on these particularly complex and large-scale issues.
 See the "Libreville Plan," the roadmap developed during the summit: https://www.elysee.fr/emmanuel-macron/2023/03/02/le-plan-de-libreville.
 The Positive Conservation Partnerships are an initiative launched by France at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh - the counterpart to the Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP), which bring together stakeholders and the private sector, and which have already been signed by South Africa, Indonesia, and Vietnam to move away from coal.
 This plan will be organized in three stages:
1. The time of political commitment: countries with the most vital carbon and biodiversity reserves will be able to commit to protecting them with the support of the High Ambition for Nature and Peoples (HAC) secretariat. This first stone of the tower must allow for the release of substantial funding from the international community.
2. The time of implementation: providing forest countries with financial means, technological and scientific tools within the framework of the One Forest Vision partnership, and economic solutions within the framework of the 10by30 initiative.
3. Time to pay for the services rendered to the rest of the world: in return for the commitment of forest countries, the international community will provide more funding, but also a mechanism to pay for the services rendered by Nature kept intact, including carbon sequestration. Based on rigorous monitoring of the implementation of these commitments and their results, the PCP initiative will create a mechanism of remuneration for the services rendered by forest countries: the committed states would produce "biodiversity certificates," which can be purchased by sovereign states or private actors as a positive contribution to the protection of Nature.
 These credits could fall within Article 6.8 of the Paris Agreement, which focuses on a non-market approach and whose implementation modalities began to be discussed at COP27 last November. Gabon has identified projects based not on offsets but on contributions - which cannot be subtracted from the investors' emissions - with high environmental value and which can be traded for 30 euros per ton. This represents an opportunity to limit removals to quantities that allow the forest to play its role as guardian of biodiversity while entrusting this task to local populations who would be reimbursed both by the sale of wood at remunerative prices and the maintenance of these spaces - a way to pay this double dividend.
 Gabon, France, and Canada have launched an intergovernmental platform on the sustainable use of wood and bio-based materials in construction to help replace concrete and cement in the coming years and transform African urbanization strategies. A total of nine countries have decided to join this coalition (Cambodia, Côte d'Ivoire, Republic of Congo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, France, Gabon, and Canada).
 The scientific community has launched the "One Forest Vision" project to map the world's vital carbon and biodiversity reserves over the next five years and measure the level of carbon sequestration in tropical forests.
Photos Credits: Elysée ; Luk Senning / Unsplash