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



Editor’s be aware: From “blue carbon” to “ecosystem services,” environmental jargon is in every single place today. Conservation Worldwide appears to be like 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 preserve 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 assume so.

Thanks for clicking on this story, anyway.

Properly, 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 — international locations, normally — with comparatively massive areas of intact forests and low charges of deforestation. 

In different phrases, international locations that haven’t minimize down most of their forests.

Roughly. Strictly talking, HFLD international locations are outlined as having greater than 50 % of their forest cowl and a deforestation fee below 0.22 % per yr. In different phrases: Half their unique forest cowl continues to be there, and so they’re attempting to maintain it that means. 

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

… Certainly. We’ve lined this amply elsewhere, so no have to 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 yr. That’s the identical quantity of greenhouse gases produced by 344 million gasoline-powered passenger automobiles pushed for one yr — greater than the variety of automobiles registered in america.

Wow. So we would like extra international locations to be thought-about ‘HFLD.’ 

Properly, sure — however maybe an important factor for now’s to maintain deforestation low in present HFLD international locations. 

OK. So what number of HFLD international locations are there now?

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

Nice. So … some international locations 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 international locations have massive, intact forests now doesn’t imply these forests are secure in the long run. In line with the board of the Structure for REDD+ Transactions, referred to 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 international locations dropping HFLD standing if they’ll’t afford to take care of — or steer towards — a low-deforestation, low-carbon-pollution financial path. It’s a warning signal if international locations lose their HFLD standing — the truth is, 5 international locations misplaced this standing between 2010 and 2019: Cambodia, Laos, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe and Zambia. 

So these international locations want cash to take care of their forests, I take it.

That’s a giant a part of it. Sadly, it pays to clear forests — that’s the principle motive individuals do it. You possibly can promote the timber, plant crops or increase livestock of their place.  Loads of international locations — together with HFLD international locations — 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 have to resolve points associated to carbon rights and land tenure. 

Do HFLD international locations 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 may occasionally sound like lots, but it surely pales compared to the markets that drive deforestation. As an example, cattle manufacturing nets US$ 80 billion per yr in america alone. In the meantime, the worldwide timber business has topped US$ 1 trillion in worth this yr. With out devoted finance to assist international locations keep their forest cowl, they’re prone to be overwhelmed by the dimensions of those pressures. 

So what are HFLD international locations speculated to do? Like, why are we speaking about this?

I’m glad you requested. It comes right 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 international locations to NOT minimize down their forests, with every credit score representing a metric ton of carbon. 

Briefly, they work like this: Corporations will pay for credit to compensate for among the impacts of their greenhouse-gas air pollution. That compensation is handed onto the individuals who keep forests in creating international locations as an incentive to proceed their efforts. Executed effectively, this course of generates a double profit: Corporations are inspired to scale back their emissions so that they don’t must pay for therefore many credit, whereas the forest protectors obtain a monetary profit so long as they preserve 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 special sort of strategy and labeled as such. 

However let me guess — there’s a catch. 

Properly. Sure. The catch is that, in keeping with 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 consider that HFLD credit don’t truly 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 that 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 tough to determine in locations that don’t have an extended observe report of deforestation — regardless that we all know these dangers are actual. 

In a means they had been victims of their very own success.

True. It was a perverse state of affairs for forest communities: The tougher that individuals labored to guard their forests in HFLD areas, the much less eligible they had been for incentives to help their work. So, you find yourself with a state of affairs the place the easiest way for communities to get entry to finance is to cease attempting to guard their forests, and as a substitute let deforestation charges rise. 


Precisely. And getting that finance is crucial. It’s a lot simpler (and higher for the local weather) to guard present 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 include many years of saved carbon. There’s additionally the truth that mature forests are considerably higher for wildlife, for shielding water provides, for lowering erosion, and so forth. We must always plant new timber, it’s true — however we should always do this whereas defending the outdated ones, not as a substitute 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 shall be farther sooner or later, which is necessary. To be able to meet our local weather objectives, we’ve got to have larger [carbon] sequestration by pure programs now. In order that entails defending the carbon shares that we have already got in forests, or a minimum of a big sufficient fraction of them that they matter. 

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

Right here’s the factor: Forests in every single place are below menace. From 2000 to 2020, the world misplaced roughly 12 % of intact forest landscapes, in keeping with a report revealed in November 2022. At that fee, greater than half the world’s intact forests shall be broken or cleared by 2100. And the research 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 may help to do this, at a sufficiently big 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 just a few new acronyms alongside the way in which. 

Sadly, you’re in all probability proper. 

Additional studying: 

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