case study

Keeping Forests in the Climate Change Conversation

A photo of a forest next to a clearing of grass and a dirt road.

The Challenge

Forests, especially tropical forests, are among the most important bulwarks against global warming. These natural resources store carbon, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Yet across the global tropical forest belt, forests—even protected forests—are being felled for pulp and paper and to make room for soy fields, cattle pastures and palm oil plantations. Despite the capacity for forests to store billions of tons of carbon, alarm bells about this drastic global forest loss have not been ringing among policymakers tasked with implementing policies to staunch climate change.

Our Approach

Over the course of four months, Burness created a “drumbeat” around the role that forests play in staving off climate change. Working with organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, the Rights and Resources Initiative and Forest Trends, we promoted four new reports offering indisputable evidence that curtailing deforestation is crucial to climate change efforts.

Results and Impact

Our outreach efforts made the link between deforestation and climate change a hot media topic in 2014. Outlets across the globe ran stories about these reports, ensuring that the issue was aired in the US and Europe—as well as in Brazil, Indonesia and other countries where deforestation is taking place.

  • The Economist ran a lengthy article about deforestation that cited two of the studies we promoted: a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists about deforestation successes and a study by World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative that found that granting land rights to Indigenous Peoples is a cost-effective climate change solution.
  • The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times—among dozens of other outlets—covered the Forest Trends report, which found that nearly half (49 percent) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture.
  • Coverage of a Nature Climate Change report we promoted, which revealed that in 2012, Indonesia’s forest loss surpassed primary forest loss in Brazil’s Amazon, was so expansive that it became headline news—and impacted one of the three presidential debates in Indonesia. BBC, the Guardian (UK), the Economist, Reuters and dozens of other outlets covered the report.

Expansive global coverage of these reports culminated in massive coverage of forests at the UN Climate Summit in New York, ensuring that forests are back on the global climate change agenda.



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