By Mary Hearty

The Centre for International Forest Research-World Agroforestry Centre (CIFOR-ICRAF) has launched a new transformative partnership platform- ‘TreesAdapt’  that is set to support countries in the development and implementation of climate change adaptation solutions for and through tree-based systems including forests, trees, and agroforestry.

“Adaptation is the immediate concern of local actors. Focusing on adaptation thus facilitates their engagement. It is because of the recognized and increased benefits provided by forests and trees that local communities have the interest to facilitate and support their adaptation, conservation, and sustainable management – which in turn are indispensable for their long-term contribution to mitigation,” said Vincent Gitz, CIFOR-ICRAF’s Director of Program and Platforms during the launch at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Climate event in Sharm el-Sheikh.

In addition, Cécile Ndjebet, the president of an African women’s forestry network, REFACOF, highlighted the importance of gender inclusivity and awareness when leveraging trees for adaptation.

She said that this approach will only make sense if it takes into account what women are doing in the forest sector, what challenges women are facing there, and how their situations can be improved.

“For rural and Indigenous women, trees for adaptation should address three main issues: tenure security; value chain development for the activities they are conducting; and networking and learning among women worldwide – across continents, across countries, and across communities,” she said.

Peter Minang, Director for Africa and Principal Scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF, said from farm to landscape level, it is crucial to identify what is the right tree for the right place – for the right purpose.

This requires the combination of ancestral farmers’ knowledge with scientific knowledge in concertation with concerned actors.

Minang highlighted that the platform would also take into account nutrition. “There is the food security part of it. Are you having enough food in terms of quantity and also in terms of quality?”

He referred to the fruit tree portfolios, which aim to guide fruit production so that farmers and villages can cultivate an array of different trees that complement, over the seasons, the different gaps in nutrients and vitamins – depending on the fruit nutrient composition.

“We still need to enhance ambition and mitigation, but now we really need to focus on the adaptation services that forests and trees provide, as well as on the resilience of forests and trees themselves,” said Amy Duchelle, Senior Forestry Officer and Team Leader of Climate Change and Resilience in FAO’s Forestry Division.

Duchelle noted four ways in which the FAO will engage with the TreesAdapt platform initiative: co-produce knowledge products from FAO’s policy lens, leverage FAO’s national forest monitoring tools, support efforts to enhance the contribution of trees and forests to the cross-sectoral implementation of Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and help countries access climate finance to put trees and forest-based adaptation options into action.

The experts stressed the need for immediate action, and the fact that trees can critically help the world adapt to a climate that will be much different. Therefore, TreesAdapt supports adaptation now, for tomorrow, and for future generations, while generating mitigation and other co-benefits.

The approach aligns well with international priorities: COP27’s Presidency just launched an Adaptation Agenda to build climate resilience for four billion people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.

Simon Stiell, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary said: “The Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda firmly puts key human needs at its core, along with concrete, specific action on the ground to build resilience to climate change. As the growing number of climate emergencies throughout the world clearly shows, focusing on adaptation is a crucial, pressing necessity.”

The Sharm-El-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda outlines 30 Adaptation Outcomes to enhance resilience for 4 billion people living in the most climate-vulnerable communities by 2030.

Each outcome presents global solutions that can be adopted at a local level to respond to local climate contexts, needs, and risks and deliver the system transformation required to protect vulnerable communities from rising climate hazards, such as extreme heat, drought, flooding, or extreme weather.

It comes as research warns that nearly half the world’s population will be at severe risk of climate change impacts by 2030, even in a 1.5-degree world according to an analysis published by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) AR6 WG II Report and the UN Climate Change High-Level Climate Champions.

Collectively, these outcomes represent the first comprehensive global plan to rally both State and non-State actors behind a shared set of adaptation actions that are required by the end of this decade across five impact systems: food and agriculture, water and nature, coastal and oceans, human settlements, and infrastructure, and including enabling solutions for planning and finance.

Forests, trees, and agroforestry offer considerable adaptation potential. Leveraging this potential requires countries and actors to dispose of appropriate knowledge, solutions, enabling conditions, and implementation support in a range of contexts.