REDDy to Emerge from the Sinkhole of LULUCF

Fredag, 6. November 2009     0 kommentti(a)
Alexandru Luta
Internationell miljö- och naturresurspolitik forsknigsprogram
That the way humans are currently handling forests has a strong negative impact on climate is beyond dispute. But ask any forestry stakeholder here in Barcelona, at the last round of Climate Talks before this year’s Conference of Parties (COP) in Copenhagen, about the rules that developed countries have set themselves at the 2001 COP in Marrakech and you are likely to encounter the same reaction – eye-rolls and talks about “Alice in Wonderland”.

This is why, now that a new mechanism for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) is gaining momentum in the talks, the world’s NGO community is very concerned that perverse rules and loopholes from the forest sector in developed countries could be carried over to this new mechanism.

Given that emissions from the alteration and destruction of tropical forests amount to 20% of total world emissions, making the whole sector just as relevant as the US, China or the whole global transport sector, and also that they can be eliminated at low costs, the potential of REDD for global carbon markets becomes immediately apparent.

But in Barcelona forestry NGOs and a few tropical countries have been emphatic about protecting elements of REDD that, while lacking an obvious direct link to emission cuts, are said to be just as critical components of this new mechanism. On the wish-lists of those pushing REDD one finds clauses calling for the preservation of natural forests, preference for natural forests over plantations, protection of biodiversity, improved governance and strong involvement of indigenous people.

Outsiders to the negotiations surrounding REDD express scepticism about this growing number of “co-benefits”. However those following the talks more closely prefer to call them “core benefits”, as they actually have a tremendous impact on the ability of a forest to sequester carbon. For instance, the carbon density of natural forests with high biodiversity turns out to be far higher than that of any plantation. Similarly, studies prove that obtaining full prior informed consent from indigenous people and endowing them with strong land rights is linked with better forest preservation.
Despite this dauntingly long list of policies to be implemented, negotiations are progressing surprisingly briskly. Cheap mitigation is indeed a no-brainer. Activists’ and lobbyists’ greatest concern at the moment however is to obtain fast-track action right out of Copenhagen to lay the groundwork for REDD through early capacity building activities, even if a legally biding international treaty has to wait for a COP after Copenhagen.

Currently the biggest donor is Norway, with USD 100 million already dispatched, but this is still a far cry from the estimated 15-25 billion needed for the period of time until 2015. With funds needed already this January for capacity building in places with promising governance traditions, well-meaning negotiators have here a worthy avenue to pour their energies into.

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