Climate Change & Climate Action Energy & Environment South Asia
Report January 24, 2019

Does money grow on trees? Restoration financing in Southeast Asia

By Prajwal Baral, Mikkel Larsen, Matthew Archer, PhD

In global discussions over climate change and the policy interventions needed to address it, the role of land use—including forests—is often overlooked. Given its unique role as both a potential source of emissions—as well as storage—for carbon, the land use sector may play a crucial role in the world’s success or failure in avoiding dangerous levels of climate change over this century. Nowhere is the pivotal role of land use more apparent than in tropical forests, which have gone from serving as sinks for global carbon emissions to being a source of them amid rampant deforestation. Southeast Asia has witnessed some of the world’s most significant tropical deforestation over the past several decades, and is currently a significant contributor to the roughly eight percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions that tropical deforestation represents.

In a new paper, “Does money grow on trees?: Restoration financing in Southeast Asia,” authors Prajwal Baral, Mikkel Larsen, and Matthew Archer provide a compelling analysis of the current state of tropical deforestation in Southeast Asia, including its drivers, extant efforts to mitigate it, barriers to effective reforestation finance, and possible new policy and market tools that could finally tip economic incentives towards reforestation rather than deforestation.

Drawing from a comprehensive survey of existing literature and studies, the authors ground their analysis in current realities on the ground, while nonetheless connecting to broader global trends and opportunities. In doing so, they paint a sober, clear picture of the compelling need to address tropical deforestation in Southeast Asia in any global strategy to combat climate change, while simultaneously providing new and actionable recommendations for policymakers and financial institutions that are ready to catalyze reforestation financing in the region. While grounded in the realities of Southeast Asia, many of the paper’s insights will have relevance to other regions of the world grappling with similar challenges.

Image: Rainforest in Kinabalu Park, Borneo. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.