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

Amazon forest fires ‘on the rise’


The number of fires destroying Amazon rainforests are increasing, a study has found.

Take Cover library pictureThe BBC’s Mark Kinver reports that a team of scientists said fires in the region could release similar amounts of carbon as deliberate deforestation.

Reporting on a paper published in the journal Science, Kinver says the researchers found that that fire occurrence rates had increased in 59% of areas with reduced deforestation.

As a result, the rise in fires could jeopardise the long-term success of schemes to reduce emissions from deforestation, they added.

The researchers – from the University of Exeter, UK, and Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research – based their findings on satellite-derived data on deforestation and forest fires.

“The results were a surprise because we expected that fires would have decreased with the decrease of deforestation,” said co-author Luiz Aragao from the University of Exeter.

“The implication for REDD is that we first need a system that can monitor fires,” he told the Science journal.

“There is also a need to shift land use in the Amazon to a system where fire is not used.”

‘Slash and burn’

REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) schemes aim to create a financil value for the carbon stored in developing nations’ tropical forests.

It offers nations incentives to protect forest areas from a variety of impacts that release carbon into the atmosphere, including tree felling and logging, agricultural expansion, land degradation.

As deforestation accounts for about 20% of emissions resulting from human activity, the REDD programmes are considered to be a key component in the global effort to curb climate change.

“Fires following drought years are likely to release a similar amount of carbon as emissions from deliberate deforestation,” the researchers wrote.

“The higher probability of a drier Amazon in the 21st Century predicted by some global circulation models… may push Amazonia towards an amplified fire-prone system.”

They added that previous studies showed that fires in the region increased after large-scale droughts in 1998 and 2005.

“Forest landscapes in Amazonia are becoming more fragmented and, therefore, a growing proportion of forests is exposed to the leakage of accidental fires from adjacent farms,” they suggested.

The practice of “slash and burn” is widely used by farmers in the Amazon region to clear secondary forests and allow food and cash crops to be cultivated.

But Dr Aragao said: “We need to change the way people use and manage their land so that they can do this without fire.”

Commenting on the paper’s findings, Andrew Mitchell, director of the Global Canopy Programme, said: “These results have important implications for REDD negotiations.

“If we are to control deforestation, you have got to look at what local people are doing outside of the forests,” he told BBC News.

“The entire REDD regime need to encourage a better use of land without fire.

“But if they do not use fire, which is cheap, then what are they going to use – strimmers? Chainsaws? Tractors?

“That means that money from REDD programmes need to go to people that not only live within the forests, but also the farmers living outside them.”

Dr Aragao agreed, adding that switching to fire-free land management in already deforested area that lie next to forests could “drastically reduce fires and carbon emissions”.

“It would be expensive,” he observed, “but it would protect the stability of Amazonian carbon stocks and diversity.”

Pieter van Lierop, a forestry officer for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FA) – a member of the UN’s REDD programme, said the findings were relevant to policies aimed at reducing deforestation.

“The article clearly demonstrates that within REDD, specific attention should go to analyzing the role of fire and propose more responsible use of fire and/or alternatives for fire,” he told BBC News.

“However, we should also take into consideration that the article is mainly discussing fire incidence and occurence, meaning number of fires and not the size of emissions.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 06/06/2010

UN: World’s forests facing tough tests


World forests face the dual challenge of climate change and the global economic crisis, a key UN report says.

On the BBC News website, environment reporter Mark Kinver said it suggested that although the economic slowdown might reduce deforestation rates in the short term, it was also likely to lead to other problems.

One concern, would be a lack of investment in the sector and in forestry management.

The study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was published on Monday.

It is timed to coincide with the start of UN World Forest Week.

CTS Nair, one of the report’s lead authors and the FAO Forestry Department’s chief economist, said the economic crisis was having “tremendous impacts – both positive and negative”.

“You will find the forestry industries in a number of countries almost on the verge of collapse,” he told BBC News.

For example, he said the construction of starter homes in the US and Canada had fallen from about two million units at the end of 2005 to less than 500,000 now.

This had led to a dramatic fall in the demand for wood products, which was affecting forest-based industries and export markets in developing nations.

However, Mr Nair added, the downturn was having some beneficial effects.

“We are seeing a decline in the prices of soya beans, palm oil and rubber etc,” he explained.

“The prices have fallen drastically, so this means that the incentives for cultivating these crops have also gone down.

“As a result, the pressure to clear primary forest stands is also declining.”

The report, State of the World’s Forests 2009, also showed that the health of forests varied from region to region of the world.

“We see advances being made in places like Europe, but losses being made in places like Africa and especially developing countries,” Mr Nair observed.

“For example, what we see in the case of Africa is that there is a growing population yet the productivity within agriculture has remained extremely low.

“There is very little diversification in terms of sources of income so there is a very high dependency level on land use and natural resources, such as timber.”

“On the other hand, in places such as Asia where there has been rapid economic growth, people have moved out of agriculture to some extent and the pressure on the land has declined.”

In recent years, the importance of the world’s forests as carbon sinks has featured prominently in global climate policy discussions.

An initiative called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (Redd), which is likely to involve developed nations paying tropical forest-rich nations not to cut down trees, appears to be gaining support.

Mr Nair gave the scheme a cautious welcome: “In theory, it is an excellent idea but its implementation is going to be extremely tricky.

“If you look at the people involved in forest clearing, it is different people in different regions.

“For example, in Latin America, it is largely cattle rangers and soya bean planters. In South-East Asia, it is palm oil and rubber plantations.

“What we find is that it is not the smallholders, it is the big players who are working within a global market.

“So far, only the issue of what it is trying to achieve has been examined, the issue of how we are going to implement it has not really been discussed or examined.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 16/03/2009

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

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

Donors pledge $100m for tropical forest conservation


Donors meeting last week in Washington DC, US, pledged more than $100m (£50m) to the World Bank’s new initiative for conserving tropical forests, reports Mongabay.com.

In addition to the $100m in donations, the World Bank announced that more than 40 developing countries have asked to join the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility – the Bank’s foray into the emerging market for forest carbon credits.

Twenty-five countries have so far been selected to participate in the initiative, which builds capacity for countries to earn compensation through the carbon markets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by reducing deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).

Experts say the mechanism could eventually lead to the transfer of billions of dollars per year to fund conservation and rural development in tropical countries, while at the same time helping fight climate change. Deforestation and land use change presently accounts for about one fifth of emissions from human activities.

The developing countries accepted into the facility include 10 in Africa (Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Republic of Congo and Uganda); 10 in Latin America (Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru); and five in Asia and the South Pacific (Lao PDR, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Vietnam).

“The Congo Basin countries consider the FCPF as an opportunity to validate reducing forest degradation as a climate change mitigation instrument” said Etienne Makaga, director-general of L’Environnement du Gabon and Climate Focal Point.

“With the FCPF, forests will find their true role as carbon pools and providers of social and economic well-being. The FCPF is not a solution in and of itself. It must remain a structuring tool that will allow us to achieve the objectives of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”

The World Bank also announced the election of the FCPF Participants Committee, a group consisting of 10 donor and carbon fund participants and 10 developing country participants.

The committee’s first decision was to establish a small grants program for forest-dependent indigenous peoples and other forest dwellers to benefit from REDD via the FCPF.

The decision – though initially funded with just $1m – seeks to address the criticism that the REDD process doesn’t involve indigenous people, a charge that has been a major stumbling block in negotiations to date.

The governing panel of the partnership includes nineteen countries – Australia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guyana, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, the Netherlands, Norway, Panama, Switzerland, UK, US and Vietnam – and one NGO, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), which donated $5m.

“It is heartening to know that despite the current financial situation, countries around the world understand that we cannot delay action on battling climate change,” said Mark Tercek, president and chief executive of The Nature Conservancy.

“Forest protection is one of the most cost-effective methods available to fight climate change. If we don’t take action now, climate change ultimately will have a much greater impact on the global economy and the natural resources we all depend upon for survival.”

“Right now, developing countries can generate more money from cutting down their forests than from keeping them standing,” Tercek continued.

“The Forest Carbon Partnership Facility will bring developed and industrialized countries together – along with forest communities, indigenous groups, the private sector and civil society – to establish a financial value for the carbon stored in standing forests.”

The FCPF expects to raise more funds from governments, NGOs, and the private sector in coming months. Participants in the meeting said they are encouraged by the progress to date.

“It is very encouraging to note the enthusiasm for REDD among such a large number of developing countries,” said Per Pharo, deputy director Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative.

“Especially in light of the close cooperation being established between the World Bank and the UN REDD Program, we are very happy with how this is evolving. It is essential that REDD countries remain in the driver’s seat, and that all stakeholders are involved going forward.”

“I am impressed by the level of interest expressed in the FCPF by developing countries,” said Katherine Sierra, the World Bank’s Sustainable Development division’s vice president.

“We thought 20 would be a reasonable target, but more than 40 countries have said they were interested. Countries are investing considerable time and resources to prepare themselves for REDD, and they should be commended for taking these steps.”

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 23/10/2008

Forest peoples’ rights key to reducing emissions


Unless based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples and forest communities, efforts by rich countries to combat climate change by funding reductions in deforestation in developing countries will fail, and could even unleash a devastating wave of forest loss, cultural destruction and civil conflict, publication Science Letter reports.

Leading forestry and development experts gathered in Oslo with policymakers and community leaders for a conference on rights, forests and climate change. The conference was organized by two non-profits, Rainforest Foundation Norway and the US-based Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

Speaking at the meeting, Norway’s Minister of Environment and International Development, Erik Solheim, said efforts towards reduced emissions from deforestation in developing countries needed to be based on the rights of indigenous peoples to the forests they depend on for their livelihoods, and provide tangible benefits consistent with their essential role in sustainable forest management.

“In addition to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, early action, pilot projects and demonstrations should safeguard biodiversity, contribute to poverty reduction and secure the rights of forest dependent communities in order to achieve any degree of permanence, legitimacy and effectiveness,” said Mr Solheim.

Deforestation is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing it is seen as one of the quickest and cheapest ways of cutting emissions.

“Moves to finance reductions in tropical deforestation and forest degradation are necessary and welcome,” said Andy White, Coordinator of RRI.

“But on their own they won’t solve the problem. Poorly devised, they could even make it worse. If such initiatives are well designed they can not only secure carbon but present a global opportunity to address the underlying causes of poverty and conflict in many developing countries.”

Globally, climate change negotiators are considering the introduction of a new financial mechanism, known as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), that could generate billions of dollars for reducing forest loss in the tropics.

Meanwhile, Norway’s government has already pledged up to 3bn Norwegian kroner annually (US$500m/£250m) to cut emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in tropical countries.

“To achieve long-term reductions in deforestation and forest degradation, it is absolutely necessary to respect and strengthen the rights of indigenous and other forest dependent communities,” said Lars Lovold, director of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

“Many of these schemes are still being developed, and major decisions on how to spend the money will be made in the next few years. For us, the question is whether this money will result in a great deal of good or a great deal of harm to the environment and forest communities.”

Previous attempts to reduce deforestation and forest degradation have largely failed, often due to a lack of attention to human rights, property rights and transparency.

Source: Science Letter

Date: 28/10/2008

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UPDATED ON 27 OCTOBER, 2008

Luke from Rights and Resources Initiative has kindly highlighted that the Oslo conference was covered on the Rights, Forests and Climate Change site.  It is packed with more details and outcomes from the week-long gathering, so please do take a moment to visit the site.

Thanks, Take Cover team

WWF drops opposition to REDD


Global conservation group WWF that it will now support a scheme to compensate tropical nations for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by reducing deforestation and forest degradation, Mongabay.com reports.

The group’s president told a gathering, which included Al Gore and Wangari Ma’athai, that WWF would not oppose efforts to include forests in international climate negotiations.

“The Amazon, if it were a country, would be in the top seven emitters of greenhouse gases in the world,” Carter Roberts said.

“Unless the world has policies that recognize that value of standing trees and forests, we will have failed.”

“WWF was pivotal in keeping forests out. We have changed our position,” he added.

The news was welcomed by groups pushing forest conservation as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tropical deforestation and degradation accounts for a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector.

Some economists say that “avoided deforestation” represents one of the most-effective means for cutting emissions of heat-trapping gases, while many environmentalists see the concept as offering the best hope for saving endangered tropical forests.

WWF had opposed forest conservation in climate talks due to concerns over monitoring and implementation as well as a desire to focus on reducing industrial emissions.

Source: Mongabay.com
Date: 25/09/2008

Researchers question role of REDD


In the latest issue of the BioScience journal, a letter by three US researchers raiseds questions about the effectiveness of the proposed Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

The global scheme, likely to feature heavily at the forthcoming UN climate summit in Poland, is based on the idea that rich industrialised nations pay nations with large areas of tropical forests not to fell the trees.

The payments offset lost income from the poorer nations’ timber sector, while the rich nations can offset the saved CO2 (from keeping the trees standing) against the emissions within their own borders.

However, two researchers – Charles Clement and Roland Clement – use their letter to voice their concerns about the viability of the scheme:

William Laurance (BioScience 58: 286-287, doi:10.1641/B580402) concluded that “REDD is becoming a reality, and might serve as a model of how environmental scientists can help affect international policy.” REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation) is another carbon trading scheme which seems to offer help in accomplishing this worthy goal.

Do we need another voluntary scheme to benefit the wealthy, while generating little for the people who live in tropical forests today and are under contract to cut trees for the already wealthy? Is this an appropriate action model deserving our support?

As Laurance prudently points out, implementing REDD will be fraught with uncertainties. The technical issues are solvable, but there are many hurdles. He asks whether it is appropriate to focus exclusively on carbon, as though forests have value only in terms of this element. He mentions biodiversity and the hyrological cycle as being important; both are essential, and both are threatened by deforestation and climate change.

REDD is reputedly designed to avoid the pitfalls of a project-by-project approach; it focuses at the national level. Yet there are no mechanisms to guarantee that carbon trading will also help the indigenous people and the traditional communities that live in, and depend on, the forest for their livelihood. In an increasingly urbanized world, these people are marginalized because they lack political clout. They depend on the goodwill of national politicians. Such support is highly volatile, especially in countries with high corruption indices.

Given these worries, a number of NGOs (nongovernmental organizations)-especially third world NGOs and indigenous peoples’ organizations present at the Bali meeting-questioned REDD’s adequacy and called for profound changes in both national and international policy. Their declaration on forests recommended that REDD be eliminated (FOEI 2008).

Instead of following another red herring that may simply divert our attention from controlling the most important factors, should not the world’s scientific community ask that the major polluting countries address the root causes of carbon emissions, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and human inequities? The real problem is the growth-at-any-cost model of our political economy, and the neglect of human numbers.

Laurance ends by asking for sustainable resource-use policies. But there can be no sustainability until our numbers and our economic expectations are brought within the carrying capacity of the planet itself.

Source: BioScience journal

Date: September 2008

Saving forests is ‘cost-effective carbon cutter’


While afforestation is allowed under the Kyoto Protocol as a way to offset carbon emissions, avoiding deforestation is not, explains environmentalresearchweb.

The article by Lynn Dicks, a contributing editor for the website, reports that a study by a team of international researchers argue that leaving trees standing should feature in the UN’s global climate agreement.

They state that retaining existing forests is more beneficial for biodiversity and other ecosystem services than planting new trees.

A mechanism developed by the World Bank that includes avoided deforestation, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), will be considered at the key UN climate summit in 2009, which is being held in Copenhagen.

The findings by the researchers will add weight to the REDD proposals.

By using models of global land use, the study showed that leaving trees standing compared favourably in economic terms to other emission reduction options.

If the cost of carbon within trading schemes was £10 per tonne, the researchers showed that avoided deforestation would reduce emissions by 1.6-4.3 gigatonnes each year over a 25-year period.

To put it in context, Ms Dicks said the latest assessment suggests emissions need to fall by 3.5 gigatonnes each year to stabilise CO2 levels in the atmosphere at 550 parts per million (ppm).

The researchers said that the cost to nations of not cutting down trees (measured as loss of income from the land) would be relatively low (10% reduction in deforestation would cost £1-£2.50 per tonne of carbon dioxide).

“These are well within the range of costs for other climate change policy options,” says Brent Sohngen, a researcher from Ohio State University and one of the report’s authors.

The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Source: environmentalresearchweb

Date: 08/08/2008

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