New York Declaration on Forests 5-year Anniversary and Leadership Event

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New York Declaration on Forests 5-year Anniversary and Leadership Event

by: Madeline Craig and Marielena Octavio 

October 7, 2019

Panel: "The importance of local action and subnational leadership to tackle deforestation." Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute

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Five years after the signing of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) in 2014, endorsers gathered to reflect on the progress and challenges in confronting deforestation and restoration to date, and explore emerging solutions and seeds of hope. Since the signing of the declaration, the list of endorsers has grown to more than 200 and the 10 ambitious goals have become a global framework for forest protection, restoration and sustainable use. While the NYDF targets and goals are still pragmatic and ambitious, the collective efforts to achieve them have not been sufficient.


Forests and improved land use play a critical role in providing alternative livelihoods, social development, biodiversity conservation, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Yet, the Amazon rainforest, home to over 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, is being ravaged by fires. This international crisis creates a dangerous threat to nature and climate, causing a global tipping point for cumulative deforestation, desertification, and the climate crisis.


The NYDF 5-Year Anniversary and Leadership Event was held on Sunday, 22 September 2019 during the Nature’s Climate Hub on the margins of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit to reaffirm ambition and reinvigorate action to achieve progress on the NYDF Goals by forging a path forward. Even though 2020 is around the corner, with coordinated and collective action from all key stakeholders from multiple sectors and regions, we can raise ambition, leverage additional climate finance, and increase political will to achieve the NYDF 2030 targets.


“On the eve of the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit, there is a need to reposition forests as a development, security, safety, and climate agenda item.” Jamison Ervin, UNDP & NYDF Global Platform Secretariat 


Event Highlights:

  1. The governments of Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom called, in a joint statement, for increased ambition and action by the global community to conserve and restore tropical forests. The three governments called for wider recognition of the key role that forests play in significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero emissions by 2050, as well as for sustainable development and biodiversity. For more information, read here.
  2. The Brazilian states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas and Mato Grosso signed a joint jurisdictional statement reaffirming their commitments to the conversation and sustainable use of the Amazon. Read more here.
  3. Gabon and Norway, through the Central African forest Initiative (CAFI), announced a historic 150 million US dollar agreement which also raises the per ton price of carbon dioxide equivalent avoided (CO2e) from USD 5 to USD 10. Read more here.
  4. Indigenous leaders, Tuntiak Katan and Sonia Guajajara, called on the global community- particularly governments, companies, and financial institutions- to increase support for indigenous peoples and to recognize their contribution to forest protection, restoration, and sustainable use.

“For the first time, an African country will be rewarded in a 10-year deal for both reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation, and absorptions of carbon dioxide by natural forests.” –Hon. Lee White, Minister for Forests, Sea, the Environment, and Climate Plan of Gabon



Event Summary

Opening Remarks:

The event was opened by Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and Rita Schwarzelühr-Sutter, Parliamentary State Secretary of Germany. Minister Rodriguez spoke about the institutional and market failures that have led to deforestation and the importance of inter-ministerial collaboration, particularly between agriculture and environment ministries.


Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


“All governments, societies, invest more than 140 times more resources into activities that generate deforestation than activities for forest conservation.” –Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, Minister of Environment & Energy, Costa Rica


Mrs. Schwarzelühr-Sutter provided a call to action for countries, companies, and investors, and the global community to increase support and ambition for increasing finance for and unlocking the potential of forests. This call preceded the announcement of a collective commitment by Germany, the United Kingdom, and Norway to “contribute significant funding for countries with ambitious programs”.



Setting the Stage: Unmet Commitments and Progress to Date

Jamison Ervin, Manager of the Global Programme on Nature for Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute

The event presented two important reports that paint a picture of the status of global deforestation and restoration and highlight individual and localized progress to date, setting the stage for the coming years of much-needed urgent forest action. The NYDF 5-Year Assessment Report, presented by Charlotte Streck, Co-Founder and Director, Climate Focus, provides an overview of the progress to date on ending deforestation and restoring forestlands, and highlights key areas where we have not lived up to the high level of ambition embedded in the NYDF Goals. The NYDF Endorser Perspectives Report, presented by Jamison Ervin, Manager of the Global Programme on Nature for Development at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) summarizes endorser perspectives, challenges, and enabling conditions to action based on over 80 consultations with NYDF endorsers on current progress towards the NYDF goals.

Charlotte Streck, Co-Founder and Director, Climate Focus. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


Building on these messages, Andrew Steer, President and CEO of World Resources Institute (WRI), provided a stark reminder that the world is failing to address deforestation and outlined three key messages to move the needle forward:

1. Increase yields on already-deforested land;

2. Improve governance through data, metrics, incentives, policies, and by granting land tenure to indigenous peoples and local communities; and

3. Liberate low-yielding land back into forests through reforestation and restoration.





Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


“My message to you today, and the message of this report today, is: we should look ourselves in the mirror. We should be afraid. We should not be discouraged. We should not lose hope. Weshould learn from what's going wrong. We should move forward.” –Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI


Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute

Following this global outlook, Frans Timmermans, First Vice President of the European Commission, discussed the European Union’s commitment to end deforestation and the need for a forest moment which will kick the world into gear to take action to address the issue of deforestation.


“When it comes to deforestation, no one gets to say that this is not our business too. Forests are a global public good. When healthy we all benefit, when burning we all suffer… All consumers should have the right to know when they buy something whether that product was produced with deforestation risk.” –Frans Timmermans, EU Commission



Calls to Action from National and Local Leaders

The first panel discussion, moderated by Frances Seymour, author of “Why Forests? Why Now?”  focused on turning forest commitments into action. Ministers and high-level government representatives from Peru, the United Kingdom, Gabon, Norway, Democratic Republic of Congo, Germany, and France as well as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) echoed reflections from Costa Rica and Germany about the efforts their governments are making and the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration and collective action.


"Calls to Action from National and Local Leaders" panel. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


 “We need a global market economy within the boundaries of nature [and] we have to overcome the view that there are tradeoffs between the environment and development.” –Hon. Ola Elvestuen, Minister of Climate and Environment, Norway



The commitments announced included improving forest governance, mobilizing finance to protect forests, supporting forest countries, implementing adaptation strategies to address deforestation, empowering indigenous peoples, and implementing greater ambition and accountability in commodity supply chains. This high-level panel emphasized the importance of the goals and the existing political support behind the declaration.



“It is not enough for indigenous communities to have recognition and title over their land - though of course that is necessary. They also need opportunity. And that comes from valuing the services of the forest.” –Hon. Lucía Delfina Ruíz Ostoic, Minister of Environment, Peru



In the final panel, moderated by Susan Gardner, indigenous leaders, governors, and high-level representatives from Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and Mexico discussed the importance of local action and subnational leadership to tackle deforestation. It has become increasingly clear that subnational leaders, from governors to mayors to indigenous leaders, are powerful agents of change that understand the importance of forests for resilience, sustainability and climate mitigation. Tuntiak Katan, Vice Coordinator of COICA, reminded the audience that protecting indigenous rights is the best safeguard against deforestation.


Tuntiak Katan, Vice Coordinator of COICA. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


“Indigenous people today aren't just defenders of [forests]; [they] built a productive landscape and know how to use the land as a productive landscape. [We] need access to their knowledge to preserve the forest.” –Rafael Robles de Benito, Director of Climate Change, Secretary of Ecology and Environment, Quintana Roo, Mexico


The event also provided a unique opportunity to hear from five Amazonian governors about their experience as subnational leaders tackling deforestation through state-level policies to protect the Amazon’s forests, currently under threat. Following the event, governors from the Brazilian states of Acre, Amápa, Mato Grosso and Amazonas announced a joint commitment for more effective and broader climate action at the jurisdictional level. Rafael Robles de Benito, Director of Climate Change of Quintana Roo, Mexico provided an overview of the successes in the Mayan region, where reforestation efforts have succeeded in reversing the deforestation trend.

Governors Wilson Lima, Amazonas, Brazil; Waldez Góes, Amapá, Brazil; Luis Hidalgo Okimura, Madre de Dios, Peru. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


Private Sector Commitments to Change the Way We Do Business

The second panel, moderated by Justin Adams of the Tropical Forest Alliance, brought together representatives from the private sector and accountability community - including the Consumer Goods Forum, Mondelez International, Wilmar International, and WWF Brazil –   to discuss the impact of commodity supply chains in driving deforestation, and opportunities for increased action and ambition.


“It’s time for the private sector to step up & implement robust deforestation and conversion-free mechanisms such as the Soy Moratorium. It’s possible to do it on a large scale & we need to do it right now.” –Mauricio Voivodic, CEO, World Wildlife Fund (WWF)


Panelists highlighted the need for transformational and system-wide change across supply chains. Companies also called on governments and NGOs for their help to achieve their private sector forest commitments: improved land governance can provide the enabling environment for deforestation-free commodities. Companies also recognize the importance of supplier engagement and transparency as key factors in achieving a deforestation-free supply chain.


 “It’s not only traceability but transparency of good land governance that is needed, companies have a responsibility but can’t do it alone, we need governments, NGOs & activists to help and challenge us to reach system wide change.” –Christine Montenegro McGrath, Vice President and Chief of Global Impact, Mondelez International


Private Sector Commitments to Change the Way We Do Business panel. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


Shifting from Gray to Green: Mobilizing Forest Finance

In the third panel, moderated by Nigel Purvis, Founding President and CEO at Climate Advisers, speakers from the World Bank, and Ceres discussed the importance of mobilizing finance for forests and shifting current finance from grey to green.


“We have seen a dramatic rise in concern of finance sector regarding material financial risk posed by deforestation. This is a powerful lever for change.” –Deb Markowitz,Vice President of Initiatives and Campaigns, Ceres


Shifting from Gray to Green: Mobilizing Forest Finance. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute

In addition, the panel provided an overview of a new initiative to address the current constraints in scaling up REDD+: The Architecture for REDD+ Transactions (ART) and the Emergent Forest Finance Accelerator (Emergent). ART is a Paris-compliant standard implementable at the national and subnational scales for REDD+ transactions, while Emergent is a platform for transactions of ART-approved reduction credits. This exciting initiative will address the current uncertainty in REDD+ transactions from the supply and demand side.  Speakers provided a diverse perspective on the various types of finance needed to curb deforestation and increase restoration and sustainable land use and ultimately, to solve the issue of deforestation, fundamental economic changes must occur to ensure financial flows shift from grey to green.



Closing Remarks

The event closed with a discussion on the importance of interfaith collaboration to protect the world’s forests and the indigenous peoples that serve as their guardians. The audience heard statements from Sônia Guajajara, indigenous leader, activist, and politician, and Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary World Council of Churches (WCC). They represented the Faith for Forests Campaign which promotes understanding of the moral and spiritual dimension of fighting deforestation. Both panelists delivered inspiring speeches calling for people to unite to protect the world’s forests and the indigenous peoples that serve as their stewards.


Sônia Guajajara. Photo by Pooja Tilwavala and Cassidy Gasteiger, Meridian Institute


“More than ever, we need to decarbonize the mind of all the leaders and heads of state in the govt. We need to restore and clean their thoughts and to reforest the hearts of everybody.” –Sônia Guajajara


What’s Next?

The Climate Action Summit called for the global community to protect, restore & fund nature. This event provided a forum for ambitious commitments to achieve just that. All speakers emphasized a sense of urgency, underlined by the several important announcements by forest and donor countries to avoid deforestation and increase restoration to accelerate progress towards the NYDF goals.

The NYDF provides a framework for action through the ten goals and a platform for governments, companies, indigenous peoples, civil society, and nongovernmental organizations to work together to achieve their climate and development ambition through the conservation of nature and forests. The NYDF Platform will continue to convene these stakeholder groups and to examine barriers to action and showcase concrete examples of how protection, restoration, sustainable management, and finance for forests can be achieved. Now, more than ever, achievement of the NYDF goals and halting global forest loss by 2030, is critical to addressing the global ecological and climate crises.

The New York Declaration on Forests is open for endorsement and the NYDF Platform encourages groups to join this multi-stakeholder community. Please email [email protected] for more information and sign up for the NYDF newsletter here.

For a video of the event, which was livestream on the NYDF twitter account, see here. You can view a full summary of the event by IISD Reporting Services here and a full list of speakers here.





Event Agenda:

IISD event Summary:

NYDF Endorser Perspectives Report:

Video message from Hon. Raúl Ledesma, Minister of Environment, Ecuador:

Faith for Forests Campaign Video:

NYDF newsletter:



About the authors


Madeline Craig, Programme Analyst, UNDP

Marielena Octavio, Mediator and Program Associate, Meridian Institute

To find more blog posts, visit the NYDF Blog.


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