Karin Kemper, senior director of environment and natural resources, World Bank. Photo Credit: IISD/ENB/Asheline Appleton

Q+A: Sustainable landscapes vital for fighting poverty, World Bank’s Karin Kemper to tell Global Landscapes Forum

Must develop financial mechanisms to move needle on deforestation and degradation

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — Sustainable forest management plays an integral role in helping to meet the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity sustainably, said Karin Kemper, senior director for the environment and natural resources at the World Bank, who will address delegates attending the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).

“An estimated 1.3 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods and food,” Kemper said. “Good landscape management practices that sustainably manage existing resources and restore degraded areas for production or environmental protection are the best option to lift them out of poverty.”

Kemper, to speak at the opening plenary session of the GLF on Dec. 19, joined the World Bank in 1996. Since then, she has worked in various roles, including as senior regional advisor in the office of the vice president of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, and director of climate policy and finance.

She discussed her views with Landscapes News:

Q: Why are you participating in the Global Landscapes Forum?

A: The World Bank has been a partner in the Global Landscape Forum since the outset and we strongly support the holistic approach to landscapes espoused by the Forum. Creating resilient and sustainable landscapes is essential if we are to tackle extreme poverty, climate change and other important development challenges. The Forum offers a unique opportunity to work with other leaders in this field who are also committed to building momentum towards sustainable landscapes.

Q: What do you expect to achieve at the forum?

A: The GLF provides a unique opportunity for knowledge exchange and networking. It convenes donors, civil society, research organizations, client countries and other stakeholders who are working together to implement policies and practices to make sustainable landscapes a reality. We are looking forward to sharing what the World Bank is doing to advance the landscape agenda.

Q: What will you speak about?

A: We need to go beyond traditional climate mitigation and conservation efforts and take a more integrated, comprehensive approach. This approach should look beyond forests, and include land use planning, land tenure, finance, livelihoods, governance and sectors such as mining, agriculture, transport and energy. A new forest economy is emerging. This is spurred by growing global demand for traditional forest products (demand for timber is expected to quadruple by 2050) that translates into rural jobs and markets, and innovations in sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure, and disaster risk management that incorporate trees for more efficient investments and greater resilience to climate change. For example, trees on agricultural lands can increase crop yields, improve soil fertility, reduce erosion, and protect against drought.

Q: What message do you hope to deliver?

A: If just 12 percent of the world’s degraded lands were restored to production, we could feed another 200 million people and farmers’ incomes would be raised by $40 billion a year, according to New Climate Economy (2014). Recognizing the importance and urgency of this challenge, the World Bank’s forests and landscapes portfolio has more than doubled since the Forest Action Plan was approved in 2016. The World Bank has $3.3 billion dollars of forest and landscape projects under implementation and $2.9 billion dollars in the pipeline versus a portfolio of $1.3 billion dollars in 2015. This is good but it is not enough.

Q: What is your area of immediate concern?

A: The pace of restoration of degraded landscapes is not fast enough to address urgent global needs, while poor landscape management is generating more degraded areas. Forest degradation and land use change contribute about 12 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Although the pace of deforestation has slowed since the 1990s it remains high with about 13 million hectares lost each year. NASA reports that forest degradation emits more greenhouse gases than deforestation itself (or the whole of China), largely due to fires, illegal activities and increased dry periods. From 1998 to 2013, approximately 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends in productivity.

Q: What are our biggest challenges as a global community?

A: We need first to further develop financial mechanisms to move the needle on deforestation and degradation, and to promote good landscape management which is good for people and for the environment. Secondly, the costs of environmental landscape degradation are rising. In extreme cases, such as in Indonesia, a few months of peat fires in 2015 created $16 billion in damages; costing more than recovery efforts that following the Tsunami (2004) in (that severely affected the Indonesian province) Aceh. In Burundi, the cost of land degradation is 4 percent of GDP (gross domestic product); and in Colombia the cost of land degradation, including deforestation, is more than 1.5 percent of GDP. Forest and land degradation carry a heavy price tag and we urgently need to address these issues.

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