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Holistic and Sustainable Forest Management to Benefit All Fijians Part 2

The 30 Million Trees  in  15  Years  initiative  (30MT15Y) aims  to  address  climate  change,  enhance  ecosystem  services  and biodiversity, and help with our economic growth through carbon trade and conventional means. It is a holistic approach.


Part 2 of an abstract of the Prime Minister and Minister for Forestry’s statement on the Forestry Sector which was delivered in the August Parliament sitting.


Carbon Trade

Government is not only working on improving its facilitation process for the private sector, it  is  also  progressing  Fiji’s  efforts  to  enter  into  carbon  trade.  The  REDD+  Readiness Project with the Ministry of Forestry is helping with this process, thus making Fiji the first  Small  Island  Developing  State  in  the  world  to  venture  into  carbon  trade. This  follows  the signing  of  the  Emission  Reduction  Payment  Agreement  (ERPA)  between  Government  and  the World Bank in January this year.


A $2 million budget for this financial year will be devoted entirely to completing the preparatory work. It is programmed to support the development and enhancement of key systems and processes and to strengthen institutional arrangements that will ensure the full and effective implementation of Fiji’s emissions reduction program. These developments and improvements include:


1)                  $480,000 for strengthening the forest governance and management system through the development of district-level integrated land use plans for the 20 districts targeted under the Emission Reduction Program area. The land use plans for 10 districts have been completed at the cost of $220,000. The development of the remaining 10 plans will be pursued in this new fiscal year. Work on this also includes the development of the Safeguard Information System, which is designed to monitor and report on the level of compliance with the mandatory safeguard standards required under the Emission Reduction Program. 


2)                  $1.1 million for updating and improving the forest information database and system, which includes the continuation of the National Forest Inventory (NFI) and carbon stock assessment work – this work was suspended in April due to the COVID-19 restrictions, and plans for this new fiscal year are to deploy and recommence work on Vanua Levu, if the conditions allow.

This work also includes the enhancement of the Ministry’s capabilities through the National Forest Monitoring System, which will immensely improve the Ministry’s monitoring, reporting and verification capabilities, in preparation for the reporting obligations under the Emission Reduction Program.

$420,000 to roll out the Emission Reduction Program national awareness campaign. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, the allocated budget will be used on digital media through the various virtual platforms, which are accessible to the general public.

Preparatory work also includes a National Awareness Campaign. To ensure COVID-19 safety, the awareness will be done largely via mainstream media and online platforms, including the Ministry’s website. The Ministry will physically visit communities in areas where COVID-19 movement restrictions allow.


Under the Emissions Reduction Payment Agreement, Fiji is expected to establish 37,282 hectares of forests as carbon pools for sequestering 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In return, the World Bank will make “result-based” carbon payments of USD 12.5 million - approximately $26 million Fijian dollars. The Fijian Government is expected to report to the World Bank three times, with the final reporting period set for December 2024.


Climate Change and Forest Bills 

 Since 1993, Fiji has recorded an increase of six millimetres in sea level annually. The rapid rise in sea levels and the resulting saltwater intrusion that stems from the increased ferocity of coastal floods have made portions of our island nation uninhabitable. 


The Fijian Government is ensuring that it embeds climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as resilience initiatives in all its national and sectoral plans and strategies.


The draft Climate Change Bill which has undergone about 2 years of public consultations will be tabled this week and we aim to have it approved as an Act of Parliament before the next COP in Glasgow. 


The  Ministry  will  progress  work  on  the  Forestry  Bill  to  ensure  it  complements  the  soon  to  be Climate Change Act.  


30 Million Trees in 15 Years

The national tree planting initiative of 30 Million Trees in 15 Years (30MT15Y) is one of Fiji’s main platforms to addressing climate change, because trees are scientifically proven to be among the best nature-based solutions for capturing carbon. 


Fiji’s tree-planting revolution started in January 2019, and we have planted over 7.6 million trees and mangroves in the past 31 months. This huge achievement is due largely to the public interest. How have we done this? It’s not just Government which cares about this campaign. Members of communities  in  rural  areas  and  the  outer  islands,  in  peri-urban  and  even  urban  areas  who  have available land, no matter the size, are joining the campaign. Members of the public are welcome to join this campaign, and help us make Fiji the greenest path of paradise anywhere in the world. 


There  is  the  growing  consciousness  in  the  Fijian  mind  of  the  environment  and  of nature as a whole. Fijians are not only concerned about the impacts of climate change, but they are actively participating in finding solutions, and they know that planting trees - the right type of tree, at the right place, and at the right time – is crucial towards addressing climate change.


The tree-planting initiative is also part of Fiji’s green recovery following the devastation to our national economy caused by the recent series of natural disasters and COVID-19. So, the 30 Million Trees  in  15  Years  initiative  aims  to  address  climate  change,  enhance  ecosystem  services  and biodiversity, and help with our economic growth through carbon trade and conventional means. It is a holistic approach. 


The Ministry keeps track of the trees planted through the use of technology such as GPS, drones and ArcGIS software. It works closely with the Ministry of Communications in developing and tracking the tree-planting programme. The Ministry has also developed a dashboard that the public can  access  on  the  Ministry’s  website,  www.forestry.gov.fj The  dashboard  currently  shows  6.4 million trees. These are the figures that the Ministry has validated. The remaining 1.2 million trees constitute raw data that is currently being validated, and the figure will be updated as the numbers can be verified.  


I wish to  thank  the  members of the public  as well as the various organisations  that are planting trees,  such  as  youth  and  women’s  groups,  faith-based  and  civil  society  organisations, and companies both within and beyond the forestry sector. Climate Change is a real and present danger. Addressing climate change should continue to be a national and global priority. We have only one Planet Earth, and we all need to work together to protect it! 


A budget of $1.9 Million has been allocated to continue Fiji’s tree-planting campaign.  


National Forest Inventory

Trees  and  forests  are  an  important  nature-based  solution  for  mitigating Climate Change  and  reducing  damage  caused  by  natural  disasters  like  droughts  and  floods,  so  it  is  vital that we take stock of this natural resource. The total cost of managing the national forest inventory (NFI) is approximately $2.7 million. For the new fiscal year, $1.05 million has been allocated to recommence work on Vanua Levu.


The 2021 NFI began in late February on Viti Levu and by April, 117 plots out of a target of 1,200 plots were assessed. The immediate plan at that time was to deploy the work to Vanua Levu. This was not possible due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases reported and the suspension of the inter-island maritime ferry services.


The plan to deploy the NFI work to Vanua Levu is now being revisited, and we expect to begin by October. On completing Vanua Levu, the work will move onto the maritime islands, and at the end, the assessment of 51% of the targeted area will be completed. The  NFI  assessment  on  Viti  Levu  will  be  conducted  strategically  and  based  on  the  COVID-19 situation. It most likely will begin with the assessment of forests in the Western Division before consideration is given to the forests in the Central and Eastern divisions. We hope to complete the national inventory by September 2022. 


Holistic Approach to Benefit All Fijians 

We can be pleased with the progress the forestry industry has made over the last several years and obviously with the continuous improvements in polices, a sound legal framework, transparent and open processes, commercial discipline and engagement with all stakeholders including with our landowners, domestic and international businesses and partners we will be able to do better for our economy and for the benefit of all Fijians. 


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