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What on Earth is ‘HFLD’? (Trace: It’s about forests)



Editor’s word: From “blue carbon” to “ecosystem services,” environmental jargon is all over the place nowadays. Conservation Worldwide appears to make sense of it in an occasional explainer collection we’re calling “What on Earth?”

In this installment, we explore the role “HFLDs,”  play in storing climate-warming carbon.

You local weather individuals and your acronyms. 

Sure, we actually do use a whole lot of them.

IPCC. UNFCCC. REDD. You even made ‘TREES’ into an acronym. I can’t hold all of them straight.

I know. It’s a lot. To be fair, “U-N-F-triple-C,” as we in the climate world call it, is a lot easier to say than “United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” 

I suppose so.

Thanks for clicking on this story, anyway.

Nicely, I’m right here now. So — what does ‘HFLD’ imply? I assume it’s an acronym for one thing. 

It’s. It stands for “Excessive Forest cowl, Low Deforestation.” 

And what does that imply?

It’s used to explain locations — nations, often — with comparatively massive areas of intact forests and low charges of deforestation. 

In different phrases, nations that haven’t lower down most of their forests.

Kind of. Strictly talking, HFLD nations are outlined as having greater than 50 p.c of their forest cowl and a deforestation charge underneath 0.22 p.c per 12 months. In different phrases: Half their authentic forest cowl remains to be there, and so they’re attempting to maintain it that approach. 

And that is necessary as a result of forests are necessary …

… Certainly. We’ve lined this amply elsewhere, so no must recap all of it right here. For this dialogue, although, an important factor to recollect about forests is that they take in and retailer a whole lot of the climate-warming carbon air pollution that we people produce: Intact, undisturbed forests can take away one thing like 436 million metric tons of carbon per 12 months. That’s the identical quantity of greenhouse gases produced by 344 million gasoline-powered passenger autos pushed for one 12 months — greater than the variety of autos registered in the US.

Wow. So we wish extra nations to be thought-about ‘HFLD.’ 

Nicely, sure — however maybe an important factor for now could be to maintain deforestation low in present HFLD nations. 

OK. So what number of HFLD nations are there now?

At current, 33 nations meet this definition; the highest three are Guyana and Suriname in South America, and Gabon in Africa. 

Nice. So … some nations have a whole lot of forests and have managed to maintain them. What’s the issue, then?

The issue, merely put, is that simply because these nations have massive, intact forests now doesn’t imply these forests are protected in the long run. Based on the board of the Structure for REDD+ Transactions, generally known as “ART” — one other enjoyable local weather acronym for you! — “future deforestation is projected to extend into intact, high-carbon forests, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions of an estimated 170 billion tons of [carbon dioxide] by 2050 — four times current annual emissions.” 

So there’s a actual danger of extra nations dropping HFLD standing if they will’t afford to keep up — or steer towards — a low-deforestation, low-carbon-pollution financial path. It’s a warning signal if nations lose their HFLD standing — in truth, 5 nations misplaced this standing between 2010 and 2019: Cambodia, Laos, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe and Zambia. 

So these nations want cash to keep up their forests, I take it.

That’s a giant a part of it. Sadly, it pays to clear forests — that’s the primary purpose individuals do it. You possibly can promote the timber, plant crops or elevate livestock of their place.  Plenty of nations — together with HFLD nations — want financing to assist reverse the financial equation that values forests extra after they’re useless than after they’re alive. 

However there’s extra to it than simply cash — some want technical assist,  others must resolve points associated to carbon rights and land tenure. 

Do HFLD nations obtain monetary help now?

They do, however not that a lot. Since 2007, HFLD jurisdictions have obtained lower than US$ 2 billion in local weather finance. This will sound like so much, nevertheless it pales compared to the markets that drive deforestation. For example, cattle manufacturing nets US$ 80 billion per 12 months in the US alone. In the meantime, the worldwide timber business has topped US$ 1 trillion in worth this 12 months. With out devoted finance to assist nations keep their forest cowl, they’re more likely to be overwhelmed by the dimensions of those pressures. 

So what are HFLD nations purported to do? Like, why are we speaking about this?

I’m glad you requested. It comes all the way down to carbon markets. 

Oh, no. 

Oh, sure.

That’s the carbon credit stuff?

That’s the carbon credit score stuff. After all, we’ve already talked about carbon credit. In nice element. However to refresh your reminiscence, carbon credit are generated by tasks that pay communities and nations to NOT lower down their forests, with every credit score representing a metric ton of carbon. 

Briefly, they work like this: Firms will pay for credit to compensate for a number of the impacts of their greenhouse-gas air pollution. That compensation is handed onto the individuals who keep forests in creating nations as an incentive to proceed their efforts. Finished effectively, this course of generates a double profit: Firms are inspired to cut back their emissions so that they don’t need to pay for therefore many credit, whereas the forest protectors obtain a monetary profit so long as they hold the forests standing. These forests then can proceed to soak up extra climate-warming carbon from the ambiance.

So are there HFLD credit?

Certainly. They’re similar to different forest-carbon credit, solely they’re created utilizing a unique type of method and labeled as such. 

However let me guess — there’s a catch. 

Nicely. Sure. The catch is that, based on critics, HFLD areas shouldn’t be eligible for investments like this … 

… as a result of these areas aren’t at a excessive sufficient danger of deforestation. 

Exactly! Some individuals and organizations imagine that HFLD credit don’t really result in reductions in carbon emissions1 — that they don’t fulfill the requirement of “additionality.” 

Remind me: What does ‘additionality’ imply?

You already got here near answering that: Additionality is the concept forest safety — and the carbon reductions related to it — would not have occurred with out the funding. It is a elementary idea behind carbon credit. To earn a credit score, the forest protectors should exhibit that the forest is in danger. That’s troublesome to determine in locations that don’t have a protracted observe report of deforestation — though we all know these dangers are actual. 

In a approach they have been victims of their very own success.

True. It was a perverse scenario for forest communities: The more durable that folks labored to guard their forests in HFLD areas, the much less eligible they have been for incentives to help their work. So, you find yourself with a scenario the place one of the simplest ways for communities to get entry to finance is to cease attempting to guard their forests, and as an alternative let deforestation charges rise. 


Precisely. And getting that finance is essential. It’s a lot simpler (and higher for the local weather) to guard current forests than to plant new ones.

Wait: Why? Like, why not simply plant new timber?

New timber don’t develop quick sufficient to compensate for the lack of older ones, which comprise many years of saved carbon. There’s additionally the truth that mature forests are considerably higher for wildlife, for safeguarding water provides, for lowering erosion, and so forth. We must always plant new timber, it’s true — however we must always do this whereas defending the previous ones, not as an alternative of defending them. 

William Moomaw, an environmental scientist, defined this in a 2019 interview:

It’s not that we shouldn’t do afforestation [planting new trees] and we shouldn’t do reforestation. We must always. However acknowledge that their contribution might be farther sooner or later, which is necessary. With a view to meet our local weather objectives, we’ve got to have better [carbon] sequestration by pure programs now. In order that entails defending the carbon shares that we have already got in forests, or not less than a big sufficient fraction of them that they matter. 

I see — so we’ve got to guard forests even when they’re not underneath risk.

Right here’s the factor: Forests all over the place are underneath risk. From 2000 to 2020, the world misplaced roughly 12 p.c of intact forest landscapes, based on a report revealed in November 2022. At that charge, greater than half the world’s intact forests might be broken or cleared by 2100. And the examine signifies that the speed is rising


I do know. So, higher to determine methods to guard these locations now, earlier than it’s too late — and carbon credit will help to do this, at a large enough scale, proper now. It’s time to present HFLD credit their due and pave the way in which for them to be a part of the equation. 

I can see that. And I’m certain you individuals will provide you with a number of new acronyms alongside the way in which. 

Sadly, you’re in all probability proper. 

Additional studying: 

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