Stephen Rumsey, chair, Permian Global, speaks during the GLF Investment Case Symposium 2018 at the IFC in Washington. GLF/Leigh Vogel

Permian Global’s Stephen Rumsey envisions a brighter future for REDD+

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WASHINGTON (Landscape News) – “I think at the moment we’re in the darkest hour,” said a financial expert during a Landscape Talk about the next decade of REDD+, at the recent Global Landscapes Forum Investment Case Symposium in Washington.

REDD+, the U.N.-backed scheme to reduce emissions from degradation and deforestation, and enhance carbon stocks, has “become a bit less fashionable recently,” acknowledged Stephen Rumsey, chair of the investment firm Permian Global, which is focused on protecting and recovering tropical rainforests to mitigate climate change. “It needs to come back, because it’s basically a good idea.”

He pointed out the need for negative carbon emissions to avoid disastrous climate change. Emissions from forests, he said, mostly come from degradation, which often involves fire.

“Of course fires do occur naturally, but we’re seeing fires at much higher rates,” he said.

If half the world’s forests were managed for ecosystem recovery, carbon emissions could be reduced by about 3 parts per million per year, said Rumsey. “So we could solve the climate change problem in about 50 years, which would probably be in line with averting significant disaster for humanity.”

In a commonly-cited theme of the symposium, which attracted more than 250 financial experts, policymakers and environmentalists, he asserted that private-sector long-term capital which, at an estimated $80 trillion, currently dwarfs public-sector funds, must be mobilized in order to make this happen.

Delegates met to tackle the challenge of funding the restoration of more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide, a footprint larger than South America.

Not only does land degradation increase climate change risk, but it is estimated to cost the global economy from $2 to $4.5 trillion a year. Economic benefits of restoration efforts are an estimated $84 billion a year, according to a 2017 research paper published in Environmental Research Letters, and statistics from World Resources Institute.

Enhanced transparency, through better monitoring, auditing and regulation, is a crucial piece of the puzzle of inviting more private investment, Rumsey believes.

The “enormous strides” being made in remote sensing using radar and satellite data are already contributing to more reliable auditing, he said: “It’s really difficult now to deceive people about what’s going on in landscapes.”

As operations scale up, better-regulated markets will also need to emerge. “At the moment the REDD+ market is perceived as being unregulated. That may or may not be true. But I would predict that that’s going to change,” he said.

Rumsey was generally optimistic that the changes required are possible, and indeed likely. “My view about all this is that we are actually going to succeed,” he said. “We will attract the necessary long-term capital, and we will avert disastrous climate change over the next 50 years.”

“But the next decade is absolutely crucial. If we don’t get our methods right by about 2030, we’re going to be in real trouble.” So in his view, current REDD+ challenges are a timely part of the process of getting things working well before it is too late.

“To reflect on a truism from my decades in the financial markets, recovery only happens when the true extent of problems are truly understood and recognized,” he said. “The darkest hour heralds the dawn.”

A Landscape Talk is a brief presentation under 10 minutes long.



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