Forests are now receiving a level of attention that we haven’t seen for
years, and there is no doubt that climate change is the major reason for
this. The destruction and degradation of forests account for one-fifth of
all global carbon emissions, and it is now widely accepted that activities
to reduce these emissions should play a significant role in tackling global
warming. This has helped to push CIFOR to the heart of the climate change
The year 2008 marked a halfway stage on the road to Copenhagen, where
world leaders will finalise a climate agreement to replace the Kyoto
Protocol. The previous year, at a UN climate change conference in Bali,
CIFOR helped to organise what has now become an annual event. Forest Day 1,
attended by over 800 experts, ensured that policy makers, politicians and
the press were made fully aware of the important role forests can play in
tackling the gravest problem facing humanity. CIFOR also made a strong case
for addressing climate change in a way that will benefit poor people, as
well as the forests themselves.
The Bali Action Plan endorsed, in principle, the inclusion of reducing
emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in the post-Kyoto
climate agreement. At the 2008 UN Climate Change Conference, held in Poznań,
Poland, discussions at Forest Day 2 focused on the design of REDD mechanisms
and the importance of helping communities and countries adapt to climate
change. In December 2009, world leaders will meet in Denmark to decide how,
and to what extent, we will use forests to mitigate climate change and adapt
to its effects.
I believe that CIFOR scientists are playing a vitally important role,
both by alerting the world to the importance of forests, and by providing
the objective research essential to good policy making.
One of CIFOR’s great strengths as a research organisation has been its
willingness to think outside the box—beyond the canopy. CIFOR was one of the
first research centres to show that the rapid loss of rainforest in the
Amazon had more to do with agricultural expansion, and in particular
extensive cattle ranching, rather than the exploitation of timber. Since
then, CIFOR has continued to address the underlying causes of deforestation.
Agricultural development and climate change are among the key drivers of
change, but transport and infrastructure development, trade and investment
policies, and many other activities also have a significant impact on
forests and forest-dwelling communities. This has been explicitly recognised
in CIFOR’s new strategy, which the Board of Trustees endorsed in 2008.
Under the new strategy, governance, livelihoods and environmental
services remain key programme areas for CIFOR, but there is now a greater
emphasis on interdisciplinary research. CIFOR will continue to engage in
collaborative partnerships, though with greater relevance and purpose than
in the past. CIFOR will continue to base itself in Indonesia, and to
concentrate its research on the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, dryland
Africa and Southeast Asia.
CIFOR is well placed to promote sustainable forest management by
providing analyses, information, ideas and technologies that can be used by
policy makers, research institutes, environmental groups and community
organisations. Ultimately, CIFOR recognises that its efforts will only
produce results if they are translated into action at the national and local
level. I believe that the new strategy will ensure that this happens.
‘One of CIFOR’s great strengths as a research organisation has been its willingness to think outside
beyond the canopy.’
Dr Andrew J. Bennett
Chair, Board of Trustees