This is why the Gola Rainforest is a true ‘Forest of Hope’
The Paris climate change negotiations in late 2015 led to a global agreement on tackling the earth’s warming in the coming decades, and left us with some optimism that it might be possible. The Global Landscapes Forum side event at Paris, gave BirdLife the opportunity to put a spotlight on the key role of tropical forest conservation in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Tropical rainforests – apart from being treasure troves of wildlife – act as the Earth’s carbon sinks: they absorb carbon dioxide (a major cause of global warming) released through burning of fossil fuels and other processes and prevent it from being released into the atmosphere. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB, BirdLife in the UK) has been working with the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL, BirdLife in Sierra Leone) and the national government for 25 years – enduring through a civil war and the Ebola outbreak – to conserve and restore the 70,000 ha Gola Rainforest and its wildlife and prevent the release of CO2 emissions from deforestation and degradation.
REDD – Reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation – is especially vital for countries like Sierra Leone, which has an extremely rich tropical rainforest but ranks very low on life expectancy, education, and income per capita. These nations need to achieve economic development without exhausting forest resources such as timber, since approximately 24,000 people living in 122 forest edge communities are directly dependent on the natural resources the Gola Rainforest provides. Deforestation not only reduces the planet’s climate change mitigation capabilities, but also wipes out these people’s livelihoods.
The Gola REDD project has prevented the emission of 1.19 million tonnes of CO2 between August 2012 and December 2014: about the same amount as a car setting off from Sierra and circumnavigating the globe 76,000 times would release. On the Gola Partnership’s silver anniversary, five years of hard work on the project was successfully validated and verified by independent auditors. Since the project met all the criteria for successful emission reduction measures, it was able to quantify its work, earn carbon credits and create social benefits for local communities (3000 farmers were registered in farmer field schools). For the first time in West Africa, a conservation project of this sort entered the baffling world of carbon trading.
Now, a company or individuals that have already made significant efforts to reduce their emissions can offset their remaining emissions by purchasing Gola’s verified carbon credits on the voluntary carbon market. We hope carbon trading will be a mechanism that continues to sustainably finance the globally important work of conserving the Gola Rainforest in the years to come.
The case to continue the work on protecting tropical forests is compelling: every four seconds, we lose an area of forest the size of a football pitch, 13 million hectares per year; deforestation accounts for between 15 and 20% of all human-induced emissions (this is more than all of the world’s transport); tropical forests are home to at least 70% of the world’s plants and animals, more than 13 million species, and 71% of all globally-threatened bird species depend on tropical forests. The Gola Rainforest harbours 60 globally threatened species such as the Pygmy Hippo, Yellow-casqued Hornbill and Diana Monkey.
The Gola REDD project shows Sierra Leone’s leadership in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and how a strong civil society partnership like BirdLife can deliver truly ground-breaking work.