Building Climate Resilience, From Day One

Forest conservation has been the cornerstone of the Rainforest Alliance's mission since it was founded 30 years ago. As we've worked to stop deforestation over the decades, we've also worked to spread global awareness about the incredible capacity of forests to absorb carbon and stabilize the climate—both local and global. So while we describe our work as forest conservation, what we've been doing all along is mitigating climate change and building resilience to its impacts. 

A decade ago, in response to the growing body of scientific evidence for the acceleration of global warming and its destructive impacts, we began to formalize our climate work and amplify the role forests play in sequestering carbon. Building upon years of work at the intersection of development, agriculture, and forestry, we worked with the Sustainable Agriculture Network to develop a voluntary climate module to complement Rainforest Alliance certification. Farmers in our training programs learned how to increase their resilience and adapt to climate change through methods such as the protection of native ecosystems and biodiversity, avoidance of deforestation, maintenance of healthy soils, protection and conservation of water resources, and guidance for farmers in selecting climate-smart planting materials. After observing the eagerness of farmers in drought-prone regions to learn climate-smart methods, as well as the clear benefits to those who adopted them, we formally integrated these climate-smart methods into the recently revised SAN certification standard.

"Deforestation, forest degradation, and agriculture account for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector."

We also played an instrumental role in the development of the voluntary carbon market by helping to establish the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) and its standard, one of the most widely applied and respected tools to measure the community and biodiversity impacts of land-based carbon projects; we also serve on the advisory board to the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). Verification against carbon standards is required to trade credits on the voluntary carbon market and sell them to companies or individuals seeking to offset their carbon emissions (either to comply with mandatory pollution caps or to meet their environmental responsibility goals). We've audited carbon projects managed by private landowners throughout the United States and Canada; forest communities from Sierra Leone to Brazil, Guatemala, and Mexico; and smallholder farming cooperatives in forest border regions that are working to protect standing forests and/or reforested degraded areas. 

Oaxacan coffee landscape

Oaxacan coffee landscape

Revenues earned from the sale of carbon credits can provide an additional income stream to rural communities, so as part of our landscape conservation strategy we've provided technical assistance to forest and farming cooperatives to develop viable carbon projects. Our commitment to innovation has given rise to ground-breaking initiatives, including a carbon project co-designed by a smallholder coffee cooperative in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Deforestation, forest degradation, and agriculture account for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. While we have always emphasized our day-to-day work on the ground, we also work to influence international policy-makers through various forms of advocacy. Our climate experts have regularly participated in regional and international forums, including the UN climate conference, to push deforestation and land use management to the forefront of the global climate agenda. Whether we advocating among global climate experts or training young people how to measure climate benefits, our goal is the same: to stop deforestation and forest degradation by all means available to us.  And we have been successful: in 2015, the historic UN Paris Climate Agreement emphasized the critical imperative to conserve forests, reforest degraded land, and sustainably manage land to slow climate change.

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