The western United States increasingly finds itself besieged by severe wildfires. To date in 2016, California has already lost nearly five million acres due to wildfire, including the deadly Soberanes Fire, which at over $200 million has become the most expensive fire to fight in US history. While many understand all too well the direct threat wildfires pose to lives, homes, and habitats, fewer may be aware that a primary driver of wildfire (unnatural forest density) also threatens the health and abundance of water supplies. While just 31 percent of the West is forested, 65 percent of the region’s water supply comes from forests. By reducing the quantity and degrading the quality of melting mountain snowpack that reaches communities and farmers, unnaturally high forest density and resulting wildfires only prolong and exacerbate drought conditions.The good news is that there is a proven and widely accepted solution to these twin challenges: forest restoration. Through the strategic removal of hazardous fuels – especially small and dying vegetation – forest restoration lowers the risk and intensity of catastrophic wildfires, protects the quality and abundance of water resources, and reduces the long-term carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.Preventing bad fires is better than fighting them. Photo by Rob Glover/Flickr Unfortunately, neither public authorities nor private landowners have the budget capacity to implement this solution on their own at the scale required. The US Forest Services increasingly finds itself fighting today’s fires with the funds designed to prevent tomorrow’s while individual private landowners too often lack the significant upfront capital required for meaningful forest restoration.Supported by a 2016 Conservation Innovation Grant from the National Resources Conservation Service, the American Forest Foundation, Blue Forest Conservation, and the World Resources Institute have partnered to develop a new public-private partnership and financial instrument, called the Forest Resilience Bond (FRB), that aligns market incentives to restore key watersheds before the next fire strikes.The FRB deploys private capital to fund proactive forest restoration. Beneficiaries, including private landowners and public agencies and utilities, repay investors (such as foundations and state pension funds) over time. Targeted benefits such as decreased fire severity, protected water quality, and increased water yield are monetized through contracts based on a pay-for-success model designed to share cost savings among beneficiaries while also providing competitive returns to investors. By bringing together multiple payers to share the cost of restoration and tying payments to realized economic benefits, the FRB creates a compelling economic case for landowners as well as investors.Similar public-private models (known as social impact bonds) have been successfully applied in the education and criminal justice spaces to drive measurably better outcomes. By applying the best practices of such models and working collaboratively with all stakeholders of forest restoration, the AFF/BFC/WRI coalition with its FRB can mobilize significant investment in forest restoration.With nearly 4.4 million acres of essential watersheds on private lands (providing clean drinking water to some 22 million westerners) at high fire risk across the West, a scalable financing solution to the twin challenges of severe drought and catastrophic wildfire can no longer wait.
UPDATE August 7, 2017:Last week the United States submitted a letter to the UNFCCC restating its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change while mentioning the possibility of “re-engaging” with the Agreement. While the letter serves no legal function, it reinforces President Donald Trump’s June 1 announcement about withdrawal from the accord. As with Trump’s earlier proposition about “renegotiating” the Agreement, the meaning of “re-engaging” is unclear. The United States can’t announce a formal intention to withdraw until November 4, 2019 and can’t actually leave until a year after that. Before then, the U.S. might be able to act constructively on a climate issue such as transparency. But, as WRI President and CEO Andrew Steer pointed out in his statement, “many American states, cities and businesses, and the rest of the world, have made it clear that they are taking climate action regardless of what the White House does.”The following blog was originally published on August 3, 2017:When President Donald Trump announced on June 1 that he had decided to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, he made mysterious and unclear comments about the possibility of “negotiations to re-enter” the Agreement. What was left completely unaddressed was what exactly Trump had in mind. What, specifically, did he want to renegotiate, and how?This uncertainty was underscored when Trump, after his recent meeting with President Macron of France, said this about re-entering the Agreement: “If it happens, that will be wonderful, and if it doesn’t that will be OK too,” concluding cryptically, “We’ll see what happens.”It’s hard to know what to make of these comments, or whether Trump himself even has a plan in mind. But here’s what we do know: Since taking office, Trump has consistently undermined environmental and climate protections, including by appointing opponents of climate action to key positions. And climate sceptics and deniers outside the Trump administration have cast doubt on Trump’s intention to renegotiate the Paris Agreement. Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute called the President’s position just cover, “a PR exercise.”Trump had the opportunity to further his offer when he met world leaders at the G20, but he did not. There has been no indication he has any real intention of doing so. Here are some reasons not to be distracted by talk of renegotiation:The World Is Moving Ahead with the Paris AgreementThe Paris Agreement was the result of two decades of negotiation aimed at reaching a global climate agreement that would stand the test of time. This Agreement brought all countries on board, while also providing them the opportunity to set their own “nationally determined” targets and actions. This universal approach notably includes requirements for an enhanced framework for transparency that applies to all countries, an approach which was sought by both Republican and Democratic administrations over many years.Not only is getting consensus on a whole new agreement impractical, consensus from the Parties to the Agreement would be needed on any changes to the Paris Agreement provisions at all. A former environment official of the George W. Bush administration, Jim Connaughton, who represented the U.S. in international climate talks, has even said, “There’s nothing left to negotiate in Paris.”Immediately after Trumps’ announcement in June, France, Germany and Italy all announced that they would not renegotiate the Agreement. At both the G7 and the G20, the remaining members of each group made clear in the summit communiques that they view the Paris Agreement as irreversible.It’s not just rich countries who feel this way. For example, the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in June also reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Agreement and urged Trump to reconsider the decision to withdraw.Aside from the impracticality of renegotiation, the world has made clear that it is moving ahead with the Paris Agreement regardless of what Trump does.The World’s Willingness to Listen to the US on Climate Has Shrunk DramaticallyBy announcing his intent to withdraw, President Trump significantly damaged U.S. credibility on international climate action, weakening his ability to engage with any action-oriented country on this issue, let alone all of the other Parties needed to renegotiate the Agreement.Not only is renegotiating the Paris Agreement off the table, but by announcing an intent to withdraw, Trump has also undermined the US’ ability to negotiate how the Agreement should be implemented.Countries have started a process of negotiating the detailed guidance for implementing the Paris Agreement – the “implementing guidelines” or “rulebook,” which are to be completed by the end of 2018 at COP 24. The U.S. has already badly harmed its credibility at the negotiating table for this process. (Because the U.S. cannot submit its formal notification that it will withdraw until Nov. 4, 2019, they’re still able to engage in the rulebook process.) Any efforts to weaken or undermine the Agreement through this rulebook process would surely be looked on askance by other Parties given that President Trump has already announced that the US is leaving the Agreement and has ceased working to implement its nationally determined contribution (NDC).In sum, President Trump’s proposition to renegotiate the Paris Agreement is implausible. Furthermore, there’s no indication coming from Trump himself that the administration has any specific notion in mind. Until he adopts clear a new and different course, Trump’s comments are a distraction from what’s really happening here – an assault both on climate action broadly and on international cooperation to tackle this global challenge.In the meantime, however, the American public – together with a wide range of cities, states and businesses – aren’t sitting idly by, but have instead taken up the challenge of filling the void that the President is leaving. And countries around the world are moving forward with efforts to implement their Paris commitments so that we can achieve the Paris Agreement’s long-term mitigation goals and strengthen resilience to climate impacts.
Go back to the e-newsletterConfident in the island’s diverse offerings of surf, sun, culture, adventure and scenic splendour, and its year-round warm tropical climate, the Mauritius Tourism Promotion Authority (MTPA) recently unveiled its winter season events calendar.Health, wellness, sports and gastronomy are just some of the themes on the winter calendar this year, reinforcing the island as a destination of choice for all kinds of travellers, whether seeking fun and adventure, or relaxation and luxury.As an all-year destination Mauritius boasts exquisite white sand beaches, amazing scenery, fun and adventure, water sports, a variety of cuisine, premier beachside hotels, distinguished golf villas and extravagant luxury apartments – not to mention warm and welcoming people and a diverse blend of culture.From this perspective the Mauritius 2016 Winter Calendar offers an abundance of activities, showcasing a variety of thriving and diverse travel and tourism offerings across the island.March – CultureWith the Christian holiday of Easter right around the corner, and the Hindu Maha Shivaratree festival set to mark the convergence of Shiva and Shakti, the fusion of religion and culture is the first of many exciting experiences about to enfold on the island.April – Mauritius365For every 365 days in the year, there is something new to do in Mauritius. The Mauritius365 campaign will highlight that there is something for every kind of traveller to do every day of the year.May – GolfMay shifts the focus to golf with the AfraAsia Bank of Mauritius Open Golf Tournament taking place at Anahita, the Asia Gold Fam Trip and the MCB Ocean Amateur Golf cup following shortly after.June – Sports and wellnessJune will welcome an estimated 3000 additional visitors to the island for the World Rugby 10s. If you are a tennis fan, The Mary Pierce Indian Ocean Series tennis tournament will see a legion of strong female athletes competing to improve their world rankings. For those who prefer something on the calmer, more spiritual side of things, the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) will host a lifestyle and health conference on the island aligning with International Yoga Day, on 21 June 2016.July – Trek, trails and marathonsAthletes and adrenaline junkies will flock to the mountainous landscapes of the island throughout the month of July to partake in various treks, trails and marathons across the island – some covering as long a distance as 100 kilometres on foot.August – GastronomyAs winter draws to a close, August will bring to the island gastronomic feast fit for a king, or any self-respecting foodie, with festivals and gatherings offering up the finest in local cuisine, creole cooking, international chefs and tastings of the very best of Mauritian rum from across the land.September – CyclingIf you’re not ready to bid farewell to the island paradise, September is cycling month. In an attempt to promote the interior of Mauritius, organisers have mapped out cycle tours fit for MAMILS (middle-aged men in lycra) and ladies alike. Whether golf, yoga, cycling, gastronomy, trekking, shopping, working on your tan, or combining any of these with productive meetings and conferences, the island of Mauritius has so much to offer every type of traveller. This tropical dream is the most beautiful island you can experience and the only destination you will want to revisit again and again.Go back to the e-newsletter