The results of a recent survey of congressional staff made it clear that, although policymakers care about tropical forest conservation and would like to see policy successes, they think of the issue primarily in the “climate” frame or the more general “foreign aid” frame. Given the tightening national budget and political hesitancy surrounding climate change, neither framing is likely to successfully move the issue forward. Legislative action leveraging these topics is likely to stall, meaning that lawmakers must think creatively about how to engage using other frameworks if they wish to impact tropical forest conservation.
At the same time, attention, interest, and federal budgets directed toward reducing tropical deforestation have never been higher. A number of efforts are underway across different parts of the U.S. government, primarily through foreign aid for climate mitigation and biodiversity protection. These efforts are making important progress, but the opportunity is ripe to step back and examine additional opportunities to focus and coordinate other areas of federal policy toward forest conservation goals.
In a new RFF Discussion Paper, Visiting Scholar Michael Wolosin, Research Associate Anne Riddle and Center Fellow Daniel Morris propose a “whole-of-government” approach to slowing and reversing tropical forest loss that would engage the full suite of policy levers in the federal government. The authors identify three primary routes through which U.S. policy impacts tropical deforestation, and make four specific recommendations for additional action, coordination, and research.