REDD+ could do more harm than good, forestry experts warn


As governments across Latin America prepare to implement a new financial mechanism aimed at mitigating climate change by curbing carbon emissions from the destruction of tropical forests, experts have warned against a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

Instead, they are calling for flexible, balanced solutions to the surrounding this new mechanism.

Among the experts’ main concerns are that the wealthy and powerful could capture many of the benefits, largely at the expense of rural communities, including indigenous groups.

Organised by Mexico’s National Forestry Commission and the Swiss government, with scientific support from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), a recent conference’s findings and recommendations will be feed into a UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) meeting scheduled to take place in early 2011, marking the launch of the International Year of Forests.

The Mexico gathering brought together scientists, as well as representatives of governments and non-government organisations, for discussions on governance, decentralisation and REDD+ in Latin America.

Under REDD+ (for reducing deforestation and forest degradation), industrialised countries will provide developing nations with sizeable sums of money in exchange for verifiable storage of carbon in forests, in addition to the conservation and sustainable management of forests.

Forest destruction currently accounts for up to 18% of annual global carbon emissions. Several Latin American countries, including Mexico, have taken the lead in designing REDD+ schemes and stand to benefit significantly.

“Good forest governance – involving transparent and inclusive relationships between governments, forests and the people who depend on them – is fundamental for ensuring that REDD+ helps forest-dependent communities move out of poverty, instead of fueling corruption and funding entrenched bureaucracies,” said Elena Petkova, a CIFOR scientist.

“REDD+ schemes could either flounder on governance failures or flourish under successful governance.”

The central aim of the conference in Oaxaca was to provide science-based advice on the design and implementation of REDD+ schemes, so these schemes can capture carbon and reduce emissions effectively, while at the same time generate significant benefits from sustainable forest management that are equitably shared.

“About 40 years of public sector investment in curbing deforestation, while producing many local successes, has fallen far short of its goal,” said another CIFOR scientist, Andrew Wardell, who was also attending the conference.

“REDD+ might be our last chance to save the world’s tropical forests. So, it’s extremely important to get it right in Latin America and elsewhere.

“This region holds nearly a quarter of the world’s forests, upon which millions of people depend, and over the last five years, it has accounted for 65% percent of global net forest loss.”

Source: CIFOR press release

Date: 03/09/2010

Key role of forests ‘may be lost’


Forests’ role as massive carbon sinks is “at risk of being lost entirely”, the BBC’s Mark Kinver has reported top forestry scientists as warning.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) says forests are under increasing degrees of stress as a result of climate change.

Forests could release vast amounts of carbon if temperatures rise 2.5C (4.5F) above pre-industrial levels, it adds.

The findings will be presented at the UN Forum on Forests, which begins on Monday in New York.

Compiled by 35 leading forestry scientists, the report provides what is described as the first global assessment of the ability of forests to adapt to climate change.

“We normally think of forests as putting the brakes on global warming,” observed Professor Risto Seppala from the Finnish Forest Research Institute, who chaired the report’s expert panel.

“But over the next few decades, damage induced by climate change could cause forests to release huge quantities of carbon and create a situation in which they do more to accelerate warming than to slow it down.”

The scientists hope that the report, called Adaption of Forests and People to Climate Change – A Global Assessment, will help inform climate negotiators.

The international climate debate has focused primarily on emissions from deforestation, but the researchers say their analysis shows that attention must also be paid to the impacts of climate change on forests.

While deforestation is responsible for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, forests currently absorb more carbon than they emit.

But the problem is that the balance could shift as the planet warms, the report concludes, and the sequestration service provided by the forest biomes “could be lost entirely if the Earth heats up by 2.5C or more”.

The assessment says higher temperatures – along with prolonged droughts, more pest invasions, and other environmental stresses – would trigger considerable forest destruction and degradation.

This could create a dangerous feedback loop, it adds, in which damage to forests from climate change would increase global carbon emissions that then exacerbate global warming.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Droughts are projected to become more intense and frequent in subtropical and southern temperate forests
  • Commercial timber plantations are set to become unviable in some areas, but more productive in others
  • Climate change could result in “deepening poverty, deteriorating public health, and social conflict” among African forest-dependent communities

The IUFRO assessment will be considered by delegates at the eighth session of the UN Forum on Forests, which has the objective of promoting the “management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forest”.

Co-author Professor Andreas Fischlin from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology commented: “Even if adaption measures are fully implemented, unmitigated climate change would – during the course of the current century – exceed the adaptive capacity of many forests.

“The fact remains that the only way to ensure that forests do not suffer unprecedented harm is to achieve large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 18/04/2009

Norway to pay Guyana to protect rainforests


Norway will provide financial support for Guyana’s ambitious plan to conserve its rainforests, reports Mongabay.com.

During a meeting in Oslo, Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg signedan agreement to establish a partnership to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

It is also understood that the leaders will also push for the incorporation of a REDD mechanism that includes low deforestation countries like Guyana in a post-2012 climate change agreement.

“We agreed that if the world is to prevent irreversible climate change, it is essential that greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation are drastically reduced,” the men said in a statement.

It continued: “To achieve this vital objective, they agreed that determined and concerted action is needed.

“They emphasised that efforts under the UNFCCC towards REDD must be properly designed to ensure that deforestation is significantly reduced in countries where it is already occurring, and avoided in countries where deforestation rates are still low.”

Mr Stoltenberg added that REDD “would provide funding for provide funding for a shift away from forest-dependent employment and income generation, towards support for the creation of low carbon development and low deforestation economies”.

Norway’s financial commitment was not specified, although the statement noted that the Scandinavian country was “prepared to provide performance-based, substantial and sustained compensation for the progress Guyana makes in limiting emissions from deforestation at low levels and further decreasing forest degradation”.

The agreement includes the establishment of a “reputable international organisation” to distribute funds for low-carbon development based on Guyana’s performance.

President Jagdeo welcomed the deal: “The developing and the developed countries must work together to address global warming. I commend the government of Norway for showing leadership through its climate and forest initiative.”

Norway has pledged up to $430 million per year to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries.

To date, it has already committed up to $1bn to Brazil’s Sustainable Amazon Fund, provided the South American country meet targets for reducing deforestation.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 05/02/2009

Carbon trading ‘not enough to save rainforests’


Including carbon emissions from tropical deforestation in a future international climate regime will not suffice to protect the world’s remaining tropical forests from expanding palm oil plantations, according to a study by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.

Delegates at the recent UN climate summit in Poznan, Poland, reduced emissions from deforestation (REDD) was one of the top issues, and hopes were high that a climate protocol could help reduce deforestation in the tropics in the future.

Carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation at present account for around 20% of total global emissions, on a par with emissions from the transport sector.

Currently, there are no incentives for tropical countries to reduce these emissions, although this could change if the emissions are included in a future climate protocol.

“It is argued that this would make forest clearance unprofitable and tropical countries would choose to preserve more of their remaining forests,” said study author Martin Persson.

“However, a carbon price will also increase the demand for bioenergy and make forest clearance for agricultural land more profitable,” he added.

The researcher said clearing tropical forests for palm oil plantations, producing both liquid and solid biofuels, will remain highly profitable even when faced with a price on the carbon emissions arising from deforestation.

The current efforts to include tropical deforestation in a future climate regime may therefore not be sufficient to protect the world’s tropical forests, he suggested.

The expansion of palm oil plantations is already an important driving force behind deforestation in South-East Asia, although the proportion of palm oil that goes into biodiesel production is still small.

In addition, with increasing profitability, there is a risk that palm oil plantations will also start to expand in the Amazon and Congo basins, areas with a large share of the world’s remaining tropical forests.

“These results should not be taken as an argument for keeping tropical deforestation out of a future international climate regime,” observed Mr Persson.

“That would only make matters worse. But it implies that in addition to a price on the carbon emissions from deforestation, other and stronger protection measures will still be needed.”

Source: Chalmers University of Technology press release

Date: 09/12/2008

UK and Indonesia sign climate pact


The UK and Indonesian governments have signed a deal to establish a working group focusing on climate change and the environment, a press release from the UK’s Department for Energy and Climate Change has announced.

The group aims to improve forest conservation, develop renewable energy sources, promote energy efficiency measures, as well as working with communities to help them adapt to the consequences of climate change.

UK Energy Minister Ed Miliband welcomed the agreement saying: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our world and we are the generation who must take action.

“We can only succeed if all nations work together – our governments, business networks and communities,” he told reporters.

“The UK and Indonesia have much to learn from one another; about the circumstances we have to deal with, the opportunities available to us and the solutions that could help both countries do our bit to tackle climate change.”

The working group will provide a framework for consultation and co-operation on a number of areas including:

  • Identify opportunities for developing activities on land use, land-use change and forestry and implementing demonstration activities under REDD (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) as set out under the UNFCCC
  • Promote sustainable management of palm oil production, including through engagement with the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil and other relevant stakeholders
  • Provide technical assistance on climate risks and adaptation strategies with a view to develop local adaptation strategies
  • Explore opportunities for cooperation on development, deployment, diffusion, and transfer of sustainable low carbon technologies, particularly on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies

Source: Department for Energy and Climate Change press release

Date: 12/12/2008

Peru aims for zero deforestation


The Peruvian government says it can reach zero deforestation in just 10 years with the help of funds from Western governments, the BBC News website reports.

It is taking its ambitious proposal to the latest round of UN talks on climate change, which are taking place in Poznan, Poland.

The government claims more than 80% of Peru’s primary forests can be saved or protected.

Peru has the fourth largest area of tropical forest in the world after Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.

The South American nation has about 70 million hectares of tropical forest, covering nearly 60% of its territory.

“We are not a poor country going to the Poznan meeting begging for aid,” Environment Minister Antonio Brack told the BBC.

“We are an important country with a large area of forest that has a value.”

Mr Brack says his ministry has calculated that Peru needs about $25m (£17m) a year for the next 10 years to be able to save or conserve initially at least 54 million hectares of forest, which could rise to 60 million.

He says the Peruvian government has already committed $5m-a-year, and he is looking for $20m-a-year from the international community.

“This is Peru’s contribution to mitigating climate change,” he said.

Government figures for Amazonian deforestation suggest 150,000 hectares were cut down in Peru in 2005, although other organisations put the average figure in recent years higher at around 250,000 hectares annually.

This is much less than Brazil, for example, which released figures last week showing an annual rate of forest cover being lost of nearly 12 million hectares.

Tropical deforestation is estimated to be responsible for about 18% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Peru contributes less than 1% of the world’s emissions, but according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), about half of Peru’s GHG emissions are due to deforestation.

Mr Brack says the 54 million hectares Peru is aiming to protect or conserve is divided into four different categories:

  • 17 million hectares of national parks which are already in existence
  • 12 million for Peru’s 42 indigenous groups, totalling 350,000 people
  • 21 million for sustainable forestry development
  • 5 million for eco-tourism

The minister says Germany has already committed 4m euros ($5m, £3.5m) to the first option, while Holland is interested in funding the protection of the forest for indigenous groups.

He is also hoping for funds from Finland, Great Britain and Japan.

Source: BBC News website

Date: 07/12/2008

REDD debate heats up at UN climate summit


The topic of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degredation (REDD) is shaping up to be one of the most prominent features of this year’s UN climate summit, according to the IUCN.

REDD discussions are not only attracting a lot of attention and interest, they are also progressing rapidly at the UNFCCC‘s COP-14, being held in Poznan, Poland.

After just a few days of initial discussion, Parties are already outlining the main components of a draft decision to be adopted by the conference. Nevertheless, significant hurdles still stand in the way of a general consensus on REDD.

The debate surrounding what scenario should be used as a reference for measuring and rewarding emission reductions is one of the main unresolved debates.

Concerns related to species conservation and local livelihoods are consistently raised by Parties, although it is still difficult to gauge how they will be incorporated into a draft decision text.

“It seems as if the REDD train has reached full speed here in Poznan,” said David Huberman, a programme associate for IUCN.

“It is encouraging to see that the many people on board seem quite optimistic about where the discussions are headed, but there still is a lot of ground to cover – both here in Poznan and beyond.”

IUCN hopes to see the blockages that threatens to undermine a meaningful agreement on fighting climate change cast aside, especially given the recent US election outcome.

It says that climate change is already affecting people and nature, adding that there is an urgent need to reach agreement on an international climate change framework by 2009, in preparation for the end of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol in 2012.

At the last UN summit in Bali, the negotiations reached a deadlock, crystallizing the debate on the issue of equity between developed and developing countries.

Success in Poznan is key to reaching the agreement the world needs in Copenhagen next year.

Source: IUCN press release

Date: 06/12/2008

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