The Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project: explained

By Chrissie Goldrick 18 October 2018
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A conservation initiative dedicated in the name of The Queen harnesses the global power of the Commonwealth to arrest the decline of the world’s native forests.

THE QUEEN’S Commonwealth Canopy was born out of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Malta in 2015. Originally the brainchild of veteran British MP Frank Field, it was apt that the idea took flight at such a forum – an assembly of world leaders from every corner of the former British Empire, now a voluntary network of countries with a common heritage and powerful collective knowledge.

The countries of the Commonwealth encompass a third of the world’s total population, and the QCC unites them in defence of the world’s forests, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, especially in the developing world. Its key objectives are to: increase awareness of threats; form a network of existing conservation efforts; and create a forum for the exchange of ideas, research and knowledge. It also seeks to showcase the modern Commonwealth and create a lasting legacy of Her Majesty’s long service as its head.

So far, 42 countries have committed more than 90 projects covering 78, of native forest. These encompass conservation and management of existing forests and rehabilitation of logged or degraded forest ecosystems that meet the QCC’s criteria. Projects require the endorsement of relevant government and forestry conservation bodies and ideally involve local people in decision-making and management. QCC membership is free and there are no regulatory obligations for accreditation, but the benefits are seen as wide-ranging.

Australia has dedicated three initiatives to the Canopy and also contributes through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which is part of our foreign aid program. ACIAR connects scientists from universities with counterparts in developing countries to cultivate more productive and resilient agricultural systems, including smallholder and community forestry, where the sustainable use of forests to support economic development of local communities is a priority.

The commitment of 53 countries to the longstanding concept of the Commonwealth of Nations provides a ready network of countries able to unite in a spirit of cooperation and friendship, and the QCC is undoubtedly one of its best ideas. “In the global forestry arena, much effort in trying to improve management and conservation of forest areas is highly political,” Tony Bartlett says. “This initiative operates outside those constraints and focuses on collaboration between Commonwealth countries and local communities to improve the condition of forests and the many benefits that they can bring.”

You can read the full story in Issue 148 of Australian Geographic on sale 26 October.