September 21, 2023
What on Earth is ‘HFLD’? (Hint: It’s about forests)

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

Editor’s be aware: From “blue carbon” to “ecosystem companies,” environmental jargon is in all places as of late. Conservation Worldwide appears to make sense of it in an occasional explainer sequence we’re calling “What on Earth?”

On this installment, we discover the position “HFLDs,”  play in storing climate-warming carbon.

You local weather folks and your acronyms. 

Sure, we actually do use loads of them.

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

I do know. It’s so much. To be honest, “U-N-F-triple-C,” as we within the local weather world name it, is so much simpler to say than “United Nations Framework Conference on Local weather Change.” 

I assume so.

Thanks for clicking on this story, anyway.

Effectively, 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, normally — with comparatively massive areas of intact forests and low charges of deforestation. 

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

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

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

… 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 up and retailer loads 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 automobiles pushed for one 12 months — greater than the variety of automobiles registered in america.

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

Effectively, 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 loads 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 secure in the long run. Based on 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 increase into intact, high-carbon forests, leading to greenhouse gasoline emissions of an estimated 170 billion tons of [carbon dioxide] by 2050 — 4 instances present annual emissions.” 

So there’s a actual threat 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 reality, 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 an enormous a part of it. Sadly, it pays to clear forests — that’s the primary cause folks do it. You’ll be able to promote the timber, plant crops or elevate livestock of their place.  Numerous 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 have to resolve points associated to carbon rights and land tenure. 

Do HFLD nations obtain monetary assist 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 increasingly sound like so much, but it surely pales compared to the markets that drive deforestation. As an illustration, cattle manufacturing nets US$ 80 billion per 12 months in america alone. In the meantime, the worldwide timber trade has topped US$ 1 trillion in worth this 12 months. With out devoted finance to assist nations preserve their forest cowl, they’re more likely to be overwhelmed by the size 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 right down to carbon markets. 

Oh, no. 

Oh, sure.

That’s the carbon credit stuff?

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

Briefly, they work like this: Corporations pays for credit to compensate for a few of the impacts of their greenhouse-gas air pollution. That compensation is handed onto the individuals who preserve forests in growing nations as an incentive to proceed their efforts. Completed properly, this course of generates a double profit: Corporations are inspired to cut back their emissions so that they don’t need to pay for thus many credit, whereas the forest protectors obtain a monetary profit so long as they maintain the forests standing. These forests then can proceed to soak up extra climate-warming carbon from the environment.

So are there HFLD credit?

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

However let me guess — there’s a catch. 

Effectively. Sure. The catch is that, in response to critics, HFLD areas shouldn’t be eligible for investments like this … 

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

Exactly! Some folks 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. This can be a basic idea behind carbon credit. To earn a credit score, the forest protectors should show that the forest is in danger. That’s troublesome to determine in locations that don’t have a protracted observe document of deforestation — despite the fact that we all know these dangers are actual. 

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

True. It was a perverse state of affairs 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 assist their work. So, you find yourself with a state of affairs the place one of the simplest ways 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 important. 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 bushes?

New bushes don’t develop quick sufficient to compensate for the lack of older ones, which include a long time 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 bushes, it’s true — however we must always try this whereas defending the previous 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 might be farther sooner or later, which is essential. With a view to meet our local weather targets, we’ve got to have higher [carbon] sequestration by pure techniques 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 in all places are underneath risk. From 2000 to 2020, the world misplaced roughly 12 % of intact forest landscapes, in response to 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 might help to do this, at a sufficiently big scale, proper now. It’s time to provide 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 positive you folks will provide you with a couple of new acronyms alongside the way in which. 

Sadly, you’re in all probability proper. 

Additional studying: 

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