2016 Global Landscapes Forum shows forestry investment ‘here to stay’

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The 2016 Global Landscapes Forum, recently held in London, highlighted the growing interest in private sector investment in forestry and landscapes across the globe.

A new level has been reached in terms of interest in finance for development and environment, the event showed, proving that investment in forest land is here to stay. The attendees at this year’s event, entitled ‘Global Landscapes Forum: The Investment Case’, numbered around 300 and discussed topics ranging from forestry finance, forestry management across the globe and wood products.

One of the forum attendees, Ayman Cherkaoui, the UNFCCC COP 22 advisor to the Environment Minister of Morocco, said: “We’ve all noticed a very important paradigm shift in how the private sector has been contributing to concrete tangible solutions for climate change challenges all over the world.”

Mark Burrows, the managing director and vice chairman of Global Investment Banking at Credit Suisse, agreed with Mr Cherkaoui, saying: “The future is synonymous with landscapes. This is going to be a five to seven-trillion dollar investment space within the next 10-15 years. Every bank and every institutional investor is now turning their attention to this space.”

“The biggest problem today is not the weight of money,” added Mr Burrows. “The capital is there. The main problem we’re dealing with now is: ‘How do we get this large bulk of money to trickle down to those who need it the most — the smallholders?’”

Other attendees at this year’s event included bankers, fund managers, government agency representatives and NGOs, as well as agriculture and forestry researchers. All of them discussed ways in which the issue highlighted by Mr Burrows — how to resolve the problem of money being prevented from travelling down to the smallholders.

While a ‘landscape approach’ is needed in order to solve this complex green investment conundrum, working across traditional institutional boundaries can also mean barriers are raised when it comes to the wide integration needed to allow for progress. One of the major barriers as regards landscape approaches today is the link between the private finance sector and the land-based sectors. This event aimed to look at ways in which to solve that problem.

Peter Holmgren, the director general for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), one of the Forum’s partners, said of the over all aims: “We created this Forum because we found that one of the biggest gaps in the whole development discourse is finding the finance that needs to be invested in fair and equitable ways.

“We need to move out of our comfort zones. That’s the philosophy of the Global Landscapes Forum — to bridge academic disciplines, expert communities and economic sectors to create a forum where everybody talks to everybody and crosses the traditional boundaries and innovates.”

The public and private sectors need to ensure they are able to find a way in which they can work together to develop and maintain a series of innovative solutions and luckily, the current climate offers a strong momentum for this to happen.

Mr Cherkaoui added: “When it comes to private investment on the mitigation side, it’s becoming stronger and stronger with each passing day. We are seeing record levels of investment all over the world. But at the same time, the investment case for the adaptation side needs to be strengthened. We are now seeking all types of inputs on how to do that.”

GWD Forestry spokesman James Barrett confirmed that the working together of both the public and private sectors was even more important in light of the Paris Agreement, which set a new playing field for us all. “Forestry investment is clearly no passing fad, as evidenced by this year’s Forum, and it is key that the sector is given the chance to grow within the current climate in order to make the most of the record investment levels trickling in from all over the world.”

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