Governors’ Climate and Forests Task Force

In 2008, nine governors from Brazil, Indonesia, and the U.S. signed MOUs on climate and forests cooperation that launched the Governors’ Climate and Forests (GCF) Task Force. The GCF Task Force was designed to advance jurisdiction-wide approaches to low emissions development and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Since its first meeting in 2009, the GCF Task Force has more than tripled its membership (from 10 to 38) and expanded its reach to include jurisdictions from ten countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and the United States).

Over one-third of the world’s tropical forests are in GCF Task Force states and provinces, including all of Brazil’s Legal Amazon, over 85% of the Peruvian Amazon, 60% of Indonesia’s forests, and 65% of Mexico’s tropical forests.

The GCF Task Force includes tropical forest states and provinces that are leading the way in building robust jurisdictional programs to protect forests and climate while enhancing rural livelihoods. The GCF Task Force also includes the only jurisdiction in the world (California) that is considering provisions that would recognize emissions reductions from jurisdictional REDD+ programs as part of its mandatory cap-and-trade program. Notably, the GCF Task Force includes large clusters of states and provinces in importance tropical forest countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, and Peru. The states and provinces within these countries have their own GCF Task Force country coordinators that support their ongoing efforts to share experiences, identify best practices, and develop common positions.

The GCF Task Force was created to respond directly to the fundamental problems of tropical deforestation and climate change, and the related problems of ecological disruption, biodiversity loss, food/energy/water insecurity, and rural poverty.

The GCF Task Force is premised on the view that the fundamental challenge facing efforts to solve these problems is the lack of leadership, political will, and institutional capacity (at all levels of governance) needed to develop a coherent response at sufficient scale and speed to make a difference. This continues to be indicated most directly by a deepening climate/environment/livelihood crisis that is exacerbated by the lack of effective international frameworks (of whatever form) to address these problems; the lack of leadership from major emitting countries; the fragmentation of efforts across all levels of governance; and the lack of support for ongoing, but fragile, subnational initiatives that are developing new, innovative approaches to reducing deforestation, improving rural livelihoods, and advancing sustainable agricultural production.

Three key ideas motivate the work of the GCF Task Force:

First, the GCF Task Force embodies the notion that subnational governments (including most prominently states and provinces, but also municipalities, districts, villages, etc.) provide critical opportunities for policy innovation and leadership. This is especially true in the areas of climate and land-use policy, where states and provinces (and other subnational governments) have long served as important laboratories for new policy initiatives and activities that inform and support robust national approaches.

Second, the GCF Task Force was founded upon the notion that successful efforts to protect forests, reduce emissions, and enhance livelihoods must be based on jurisdiction-wide programs rather than on individual projects and activities. As articulated and advanced by the GCF Task Force since its inception, the jurisdictional approach provides a key platform for cross-sectoral policy alignment and for bringing multiple public and private sector activities together into a comprehensive approach to low emissions rural development.

Third, the GCF Task Force embraces a network approach to governance across multiple scales. This includes the GCF Task Force itself, which encourages learning, provides training, and increases collaboration across its network of member states and provinces; the broader network of international institutions, governments, civil society actors, private sector entities, and communities that are cooperating on various activities and initiatives related to low emissions development; and the network of civil servants and their civil society partners that operate within individual member states and provinces and that provide much of the foundation for successful jurisdictional approaches to REDD+ and low emissions development.

In sum, the GCF Task Force provides a platform to advance subnational policy innovation and leadership, ongoing engagement and collaboration with public and private sector stakeholders at multiple levels, and pathways to effective national and international approaches to REDD+ and low emissions development. Since its inception, it has sought to harness and support the political leadership of committed Governors in the fight against climate change and deforestation while empowering the civil servants and civil society partners working in member jurisdictions who are so critical in the day-to-day effort to build and maintain successful jurisdictional programs. In its efforts to strengthen and support the multiple, overlapping networks of actors involved in building robust state and provincial programs for low emissions development and in channeling financial support to these activities, the GCF Task Force plays a critical role in the broader, ongoing effort to protect forests, reduce emission, and enhance livelihoods.