World Bank Liberia Country Manager Remarks At Liberia Forest And Climate Resilience Forum

Khwima Nthara, World Bank Country Manager for Liberia

On behalf of the World Bank Group family, it is a great honor for me to be participating in this two-day Liberia Forest and Climate Resilience Forum whose objective is to catalyse partnerships and renew political commitments and broad interest at the highest level in sustainable forest management and climate resilience as a key strategy for supporting Liberia’s pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development.

The World Bank Group’s mission in its member countries is to help them achieve the twin goals of ending extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. In Liberia, these twin goals are very much aligned to the Government’s pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development (PAPD). To reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity requires the identification of all the available pathways for reducing poverty and promoting shared prosperity, and what needs to be done to maximize the opportunities along those pathways.

Across the world, the Forest sector has been identified as one possible pathway for helping countries reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity. It is estimated that about 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and income. Forests are an important aspect of rural livelihoods, with rural households living near forested areas deriving as much as 22 percent of their income from forest sources according to the World Bank’s Poverty and Environment Network (PEN). This contribution is greater than that of wage labor, livestock, self-owned businesses or any other category aside from crops.

Your excellency, distinguished delegates, forests support rural economies in many countries and create jobs and wealth<>  for populations with few alternative off-farm employment options. Forests produce more than 5,000 types of wood-based products, and generate an annual gross value add of over US$600 billion, about 1% of global GDP; in some countries, that contribution is much higher.

At the same time, the forest sector has a crucial role to ensuring the sustainability of efforts to reduce poverty and promote shared prosperity, through its contribution to reducing climate change. Deforestation, forest degradation and land use change contribute about 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and many of the world’s remaining forests are under increasing threat due to agriculture expansion, timber extraction, fuelwood collection and other activities. At the same time, land restoration with trees helps to slow down climate change<> by absorbing CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels<>. All pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 oC identified by the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), include planting forests and protecting existing ones to reduce and avoid further emissions.

Therefore, the critical role that the forest sector can play towards ensuring climate resilience globally has opened up new opportunities for countries like Liberia that still have vast forest cover. Liberia stands to benefit significantly from significant climate financing if it does the right thing.  Climate financing has the potential to contribute to the Government’s budget in order to finance critical development programs such as infrastructure and the delivery of social services. But to maximize climate finance, Liberia must conserve its forests.

There are two pieces of good news. First, the Government has identified these opportunities, thanks to your leadership, your excellency. You were very clear in your desire to take full advantage of climate finance opportunities at the COP26, COP27, and most recently, on Monday, during your state of the nation address.

The second good news is that the Government of Liberia has already started taking some basic first steps towards protecting the country’s vast forest cover. We know this because we at the World Bank have been supporting the Government’s efforts to protect Liberia’s forests through the Liberia Forest Sector Project, with grant financing from the Norwegian Government. We are also aware that other development partners in this room have been supporting the Government of Liberia in the forest sector. So, your excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we have a foundation to build on. During this Forum, we look forward to hearing more about these successes.

At the same time, much more still needs to be done for Liberia to take full advantage of opportunities available in the forest sector, and in particular, through climate financing. During this forum, we are therefore also hoping to hear the participants’ take on where exactly Liberia stands in this journey especially what more needs to be done. We also look forward to hearing about what Liberia can learn from other countries that have already been benefiting from these opportunities.

From our experience so far, ensuring good governance of the forest sector has been critical to unlocking the sector’s full potential. This is because good governance helps build confidence in the Government’s capacity to manage its forest assets. One of the sessions during the forum will look at this subject in more detail and we therefore look forward to the identification of what Liberia can do more in this area.

Your excellency, distinguished participants, the most important step for Liberia to maximize opportunities in the forest sector through its contribution to climate resilience will be to actually implement the actions that will be identified during this forum and presented in a clear road map. In this regard, you can count on the continued support of the World Bank Group and other development partners in helping you implement these actions. At the same time, we hope that the road map will include some low hanging fruits, some quick wins, that can easily be implemented even without the support of donors. This will send a clear message and signal that Liberia is open for business in the area of climate finance.

I wish all the participants fruitful deliberations and I thank you for your attention.

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