Ready for REDD? 3 questions about forests and climate change for Steven Panfil

man holds seedling, Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia

A man holds up a seedling that will be transplanted in an effort to offset the destruction caused by illegal logging surrounding Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia. (© Christopher Beauchamp/Aurora Photos)

Stop cutting down trees, stop climate change?

It’s not quite that simple, but halting deforestation — the source of more than a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions — would help to limit the increase in average global temperatures and the associated impacts of a changing climate.

As world leaders gather in Paris to hammer out a final agreement for confronting climate change, a nature-based initiative known as REDD+ looms large — and momentum is already building. On the first day of the conference, Germany, Norway and the U.K. announced plans to support and expand REDD+ — committing up to US$ 5 billion between now and 2020.

Short for “Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation” — the “+” stands for additional features including the role of conservation and sustainable forest management — REDD+ provides financial incentives for communities, regions and countries to keep forests intact, preventing carbon emissions caused by deforestation. With effective implementation, REDD+ is a nature-based solution to climate change.

What role will REDD+ have in a final climate agreement — and how will we pay for it? Steven Panfil, technical advisor of REDD+ initiatives at Conservation International (CI), explained in a recent interview.

Question: Research indicates that nature can provide up to 30% of the necessary emissions reductions needed to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Can you explain more about the role of forests and these “nature-based solutions,” and how REDD+ fits into that?

Answer: Since cutting forests results in high emissions, and because forests sequester carbon as they grow, conserving tropical forests is essential to the success of efforts to combat climate change. REDD+ is a way to provide economic value to standing forests and can therefore change the decisions that countries make about how forested land should be used. Traditionally, forest has been cleared for agriculture because the economic value of leaving the forest standing has been almost zero. If REDD+ can give forests a value, then the calculus about which lands to clear will change.

More carbon is stored in the world’s forests than is in the atmosphere, so keeping all of that carbon locked up in trees and the soil, rather than having it emitted into the atmosphere, is essential for keeping climate change to safe levels. Of course, there are many other reasons that we want to keep forests standing, such as biodiversity, livelihoods, water flow regulation and maintaining sustainable supplies of wood, paper and non-timber forest products.

A major feature of the new agreement is that all countries are meant to be making some sort of contribution to mitigating the causes of climate change and adapting to its impacts. In many developing countries, such as Indonesia, most of the emissions are coming from deforestation. For a lot of the world, in order to make a meaningful contribution to this global effort, we really have to enable them be able to address deforestation.

REDD+ has already been successful at sites like Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest. To make REDD+ work on a global scale, developed countries have to find ways to ensure that there is enough predictable finance so that landowners can know that if they protect forests, there will be an economic return from it. CI encourages developed-country governments to provide part of this finance, but also recognizes that the scale of the investments needed will require private sector involvement, too.


Further reading


Q: What is the status of REDD+ leading up to this year’s climate talks?

A: The negotiations that started back in 2007 concluded during meetings in June 2015 in Bonn, Germany, where agreements were reached on safeguards [to ensure that REDD+ is implemented in a socially and environmentally responsible way]; quantifying non-carbon benefits of REDD+ programs; and alternative approaches to REDD+. The resolution of these items means that the rules for REDD+ are now fully in place, and this reduces uncertainties for the countries developing REDD+ programs.

There’s widespread expectation among all countries that there is a role for REDD+ to continue; today’s announcement of the collaboration between Germany, Norway, the U.K. and Colombia is proof of that. What’s more up for debate right now is how much formal recognition there is going to be in the new agreement, whether the new agreement explicitly calls out REDD+ as a [climate change] mitigation option moving forward, or whether REDD+ is included but in a way that it’s not called out explicitly.

At CI, we feel that it’s not imperative to have explicit mention of REDD+. Ambitious action on climate change will require a range of responses in all sectors. We do, however, want to make sure the rest of the discussion around mitigation and climate change finance is inclusive of REDD+, so we’d like to see that the whole framework works for REDD+. The agreement is meant to be a durable document that may last for decades and therefore should not go into a lot of detail that could become dated. You can think about it a bit like a constitution, which lays out fundamental principles but does not go into the details that are in a country’s legislation. The more detailed language will come from decisions made in coming years.

Amaila Falls, Kuribrong River, Guyana

Amaila Falls on Guyana’s Kuribrong River. In addition to absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, tropical forests provide many other benefits for people near and far, including regulating the flow of fresh water. (© Pete Oxford/iLCP)

Q: What happens after Paris?

A: With the methods and the general approach to REDD+ agreed upon, the critical issue moving forward is how will it all be paid for. In other words, how will there be an incentive created that will help countries choose to prevent deforestation rather than clear all that land?

One way to create this incentive is to take advantage of the fact that protecting and restoring forest can be less expensive than other types of mitigation. We’d like to see countries utilizing nature-based solutions like REDD+ in their individual actions and contributions to the Paris agreement. If all countries set ambitious goals for their emissions reductions, then they should be able to create these reductions domestically as well as overseas, where dollars invested in REDD+ can reduce the impacts of climate change while also contributing to the livelihoods of local people and to biodiversity. A big focus for us in coming years will be on making sure that countries have the right tools to stop deforestation and that their efforts to do so will be rewarded.

I’m optimistic that there will be a global agreement, but setting up this agreement is going to require more work over the next five years.

Steven Panfil is CI’s technical advisor for REDD+ initiatives. Cassandra Kane is a staff writer for CI.

Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.

Comments

  1. Living Story says

    More questions are raised by what Conservation International says & does not say about REDD

    “REDD+” draft agreement does not require crucial land & resource tenure nor human rights for forest communities prior to funding. Conservation International (CI) must know this…so why do they not require the enforcement of those rights?

    Concerning these unenforced rights, the latest draft of REDD+ reads in Decision 1/CP.16:
    “72. … requests developing country Parties, when developing and implementing their national strategies or action plans, to address, inter alia, drivers of deforestation and forest degradation, land tenure issues, forest governance issues, gender considerations and the safeguards identified in paragraph 2 of annex II to this decision, ensuring the full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders, inter alia, indigenous peoples and local communities;”

    The key toothless words there are “…request… to address …ensuring applied to the land tenure issues…. forest governance…. safeguards This is vague “UNese” language qualifying vague “UNese” providing the dangerous illusion of safeguards that are not there.

    Steven Panfil’s 2nd answer gives the appearance of REDD+ safeguards that are not required or enforced for Forest Communities. “…agreements were reached on safeguards [to ensure that REDD+ is implemented in a socially and environmentally responsible way];…”

    Those agreements do not require or enforce safeguard prior to release funds,
    So how do they ensure the implementation of those safeguards?

    Panfil continues, “The resolution of these items means that the rules for REDD+ are now fully in place, and this reduces uncertainties for the countries developing REDD+ programs.”

    The current REDD+ “reduces uncertainties for the countries developing REDD+ programs.” but not for forest communities.

    His answer continues,”… You can think about it a bit like a constitution, which lays out fundamental principles but does not go into the details that are in a country’s legislation. The more detailed language will come from decisions made in coming years.”

    If REDD+ was “like a constitutions” it would be explicit about essential rights, such as human rights & property rights. Leaving these rights vague certainly is a faster way to get Governments that do not want to enforce resource tenure & human rights for their forest peoples to cut deals with Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) like CI. It certainly will get funding in to the hands of those NGO’s & Governments faster. Given how marginalized these forest people’s have been, is it responsible for CI to propose that “The more detailed language will come from decisions made in coming years.”? What if the enforcement of those rights does not occur?

    Evidently CI believes that “requesting to address ‘land tenure rights or forest governance, safeguards ( read.. human rights) & ensuring participation” is adequate for marginalized traditional forest peoples. Would the Board of Directors and Staff of CI sign an agreement not to have their family’s “ land tenure, property rights or human rights” enforced but just request them to be addressed?

    The world’s largest forests & their peoples primarily exist because these forests were not profitable to exploit due to inaccessibility, danger or fear of diseases. REDD+’s is creating an economic incentive to now make these forests & their peoples accessible. Carbon credit entrepreneurs, Government entities & NGOs have already started pushing REDD+ into the last remaining large forests. These “REDD+ pushers” seem more interested in to getting a cut of the carbon credit action than protecting the rights of forest people. “The Guardian”’s Sam Knight correctly wrote about REDD+ in his article(http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/24/redd-papua-new-guinea-money-grow-on-trees#comment-63990568), “The incredible plan to make money grow on trees”, “When money and trees mix, it is normally local people who get screwed”

    Screwed is an understatement. REDD+ could cause the planet’s last great land grab, the destruction or impoverishment of millions of forest peoples & the loss of their unique resource management knowledge. These are dire disasters that 1.6 billion people who depend on the forests increasingly face, due to the current REDD+ agreement.

    CI’s focus on funding rather than the rights of forest people’s is apparent in Panfil’s 3rd answer.
    “Q: What happens after Paris?
    A: With the methods and the general approach to REDD+ agreed upon, the critical issue moving forward is how will it all be paid for. …”
    For CI, REDD+’s vagueness concerning resource & human rights is sufficient, so lets focus on financing.

    Panfil continues, “….In other words, how will there be an incentive created that will help countries choose to prevent deforestation rather than clear all that land?
    One way to create this incentive is to take advantage of the fact that protecting and restoring forest can be less expensive than other types of mitigation…”

    This is not the view of World Bank SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT WORKING PAPERS Paper No. 120/December 2009 which stated: “…The cost range of recognizing community tenure rights (average $3.31/ha) is several times lower than the yearly costs estimates for …. an international REDD scheme ($400/ha/year to $20,000/ha/year).” “… a relatively insignificant investment in recognizing tenure rights has the potential to significantly improve the world’s carbon sequestration and management capacity. …, prioritizing policies and actions aimed at recognizing forest community tenure rights can be a cost-effective step to improve the likelihood that REDD programs meet their goals.” “The growing evidence that communities and households with secure tenure rights protect, maintain and conserve forests is an important consideration for the world’s climate if REDD schemes go forward, and even if they do not.” Agrawal (2008)

    Too many climate negotiators & NGOs are playing loose with the rights of forest people’s who could become more vulnerable due to implementation of the current REDD+ version.

    Given what we have presented above, why is CI not stipulating that prior to REDD+ funding, customary resource tenure and human rights be enforced statutory rights for forest peoples?

    CI, please respond to these questions by posting your comments here & on our website: https://livingstoryfoundation.wordpress.com/

    Find further analysis of the need to stipulate rights in REDD+ at https://livingstoryfoundation.wordpress.com/

    #REDD #land tenure #human rights

  2. Pingback: REDD in the news: 30 November - 6 December 2015 | REDD-Monitor

  3. Pingback: COP21: What does it mean for the Lower Lempa? - EcoViva

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *