The discussion forum Forest economics: A synthesis of valuation studies in Zambia, Tanzania and Panama (UN-REDD Programme) provided an overview of recent forest economic valuations carried out in the three countries by the UN-REDD Programme. Pavan Sukhdev, CEO of Green Initiatives for a Smart Tomorrow (GIST) and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador, moderated the session. The panel was made up of Ignatius Makumba, Forestry Department, Zambia; Evarist Nashanda, Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania Forest Services; and Carlos Gómez, REDD+ Coordinator for Panama.

Following an overview of the ongoing TEEB for Food and Agriculture study by Mr. Sukhdev, Mr. Makumba explained the benefits of forest ecosystems in Zambia, where forest covers 66% of land. The study was undertaken as part of the development of a national REDD+ strategy. Charcoal and wood fuel use, timber production, infrastructure development (including mining) were all identified as the main drivers of deforestation in Zambia, where over 70% of the country depends on charcoal and wood for their energy supply.

The study concluded that direct and indirect values of forests considered as part of the study make a direct contribution equivalent to about 4.7% of GDP (6.3% of GDP with multiplier effects), as well as providing over one million jobs. The study will be a key tool in engaging various stakeholders to enhance the understanding of the importance of forests to the national economy, as well as the goods and services they supply.

Mr. Nashanda described the situation in Tanzania, where forest covers 33.5 million hectares.  Expansion of agricultural activities, wildfires and illegal logging were among the factors identified as drivers of deforestation in Tanzania.

According to the study, there was no clear economic rationale for continuing the current levels of deforestation, while REDD+ results based finance could enable Tanzania to transition to a green, more resource efficient and low-carbon economy.

Mr. Gómez explained the economic importance of forests in Panama from different perspectives, such as to the Panama Canal and that of soil productivity. He provided conservative estimates that indicated that Panama’s economy was losing roughly US$ 300 million per year from deforestation.

He elaborated on the opportunity that REDD+ creates for the country, as it will help break existing paradigms over perceptions of the forest and help make them more visible and valuable.  All three speakers agreed that the forest ecosystem valuation studies were useful for the REDD+ policy process.

Source: UNEP