22nd Oct 2021

London School of Economics, University of Stirling and African Conservation Development Group launch major forestLAB research initiative to accelerate climate-smart development in Africa

  • The pioneering forestLAB partnership convenes experts in ecological monitoring, developmental economics and natural capital valuation to explore new methodologies and financing mechanisms to protect large-scale tropical forest landscapes.  
  • forestLAB’s initial research focus is on Gabon, part of the Congo Basin, the “green heart of Africa” and a critical line of defence in the global fight against climate change. 
  • The five-year initial research programme has received USD 5 million seed funding from The African Conservation Development Group.

The London School of Economics and Political Science’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the University of Stirling and The African Conservation Development Group (ACDG) have partnered to launch forestLAB, a multi-disciplinary research hub that aims to find climate-smart solutions for sustainable development in Africa.

The forestLAB initiative launches as the world’s attention is focused on the COP26 climate conference, which kicks off on 31 October. One of forestLAB’s objectives is to highlight the role that Africa’s high forest, low deforestation (HFLD) countries play in mitigating against global climate change and to develop monitoring tools and financial mechanisms to ensure these forests’ continued protection. 

In collaboration with Gabon’s Centre for Scientific and Technical Research (CENAREST), forestLAB will focus its initial research on Gabon, part of the Congo Basin which harbours the second largest expanse of rainforest on earth and represents a critical line of defence in the fight against climate change. At its first research centre in Loango National Park, forestLAB will build on the work conducted by the University of Stirling, which has monitored African rainforest ecosystems for over 40 years. One of Stirling’s findings has been a decline in the fruit production of trees over the past 25 years in Lope National Park, along with a drop in the physical condition of forest elephants. 
Commenting on the relevance of forestLAB, Alan Bernstein, Chairman of ACDG stated: “Leveraging science-led data and insights from forestLAB can help scale new sustainable development models that conserve biodiversity, ensure socio-economic development and mitigate against climate change.” 

Speaking at forestLAB’s launch event yesterday, Baroness Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, described forestLAB as: “a timeous, multi-disciplinary research endeavour that aims to promote development solutions in Africa in a way that protects nature and climate.” 

Professor Alistair Jump, Dean of Natural Sciences at the University of Stirling, stated: “The challenge we face is to find economic development models that enable forest preservation. Harnessing multidisciplinary expertise, we believe, is the answer to tackling complex developmental challenges and devising climate-smart models – the new Scottish International Environment Centre at Stirling is based on this belief and forestLAB fits perfectly into that vision.”

Prof. Alfred Ngomanda, Commissioner of CENAREST said: “Gabon has a proud history of scientific research and collaboration with international institutions. The forestLAB research programme will help with capacity building of our institutions in Gabon.”

Closing the event Rt. Hon Lord Zac Goldsmith, UK’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, FCDO said: “Together the Central African forests capture more than a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, more than 4% of global emissions. If we were to lose great forests such as these, we would have zero chance of stabilising the world’s climate.” 

Committing the UK Government to playing a leading role in alleviating the threat to the world’s forests, Lord Goldsmith said: “As well as co-leading global alliances committed to protecting at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030, the UK Government is pulling every lever we’ve got to accelerate systemic change.”

Participants in the forestLAB event’s panel discussion, Recognising the Value of Africa’s Carbon Superpowers; Alan Bernstein, Prof. Lee White CBE (Gabon’s Minister of Forestry, Environment and Climate), and Berta Pesti (Secretariat Head of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI)), called for incentives to ensure that Africa’s HFLD nations can realise the value of their forests in a way that is both climate-positive and economically sustainable. HFLD nations currently contain 24% of the Earth’s remaining forests and play a crucial role in storing global carbon yet receive a disproportionately low proportion of climate finance.