11/11/2014 01:34 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Breaking New Ground, Connecting Unlikely Allies

By Michael B. Jenkins, President and CEO, Forest Trends


In September, an unlikely alliance of corporations and governments teamed up with conservationists and indigenous people at the United Nations Climate Summit in New York. Together, these disparate groups vowed to end deforestation by the year 2030, and they offered a clear strategy to help indigenous people keep forests alive so that forests can keep us alive.

Forest Trends helped enable this strategy by uniting foresters, financiers, and indigenous leaders around the common understanding that people need forests more than forests need people. Our approach brings the priceless services that forests provide - such as clean air, clean water, and a stable climate - into our modern economy, which until now has put a higher price on dead wood than on living forests. For business, the Forest Trends message has always been a simple one: if we lose the forests, we lose the climate, and if we lose the climate, we lose the economy.

Since the late 1990s, Forest Trends has been working with indigenous partners to develop and test financing mechanisms that not only meet the rigors of western accounting but respect and reinforce the rights of indigenous people. In Mexico, for example, Forest Trends' Katoomba Incubator developed the tools that small farmers in the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve are using to earn carbon offsets by planting trees. In Brazil, Forest Trends helped the Surui Indigenous People save endangered rainforest and earn carbon offsets - creating a template for other indigenous people across the Amazon and around the world.


Forest Trends then leveraged its lessons from the Surui Forest Carbon Project to help the Brazilian state of Acre establish a state-wide system of environmental finance that will funnel $2.9 million to indigenous land-use projects this year alone. That effort set the stage this summer for governors from forested states around the world to sign the Rio Branco Declaration, in which they promised to end deforestation at home - but only if the rest of the world steps up to do its part.

And in New York last month, the rest of the world did step up - following nearly two decades of testing and piloting methods that we now know work and work well.

The Forest Trends mission doesn't end with forests. It aims to restore, maintain and enhance all connected natural ecosystems, by promoting the development of integrated carbon, water, and biodiversity incentives that deliver real conservation outcomes and benefits to local communities and other stewards of our natural resources.

As we head toward year-end global climate talks, to be held in Peru in December, the world again will have a chance to step up on climate change. Forest Trends will be working across the globe to connect producers, communities, and investors, and to develop and advance new financial tools to help markets work for conservation and people.

Between October 27 and December 5, Forest Trends is participating in the Skoll Social Entrepreneurs Challenge on CrowdRise.