Carbon Map and Model Project launched in support of REDD+ initiatives in DRC
Aerial view of the Mai-Ndombe region of DRC, site of a proposed large-scale emissions reductions initiative.
The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has officially launched its Carbon Map and Model Project, a €6-million programme designed to support forest monitoring initiatives and the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) in ways that benefit local livelihoods. The project was launched at a two-day workshop hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation of Nature, and Tourism (MECNT) and the international conservation organization WWF; and is funded by the International Climate Initiative of the German Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Nuclear Security, through the KfW Development Bank.
The project will support REDD+ demonstration activities, along with a quantitative assessment of carbon stocks and emissions in the largest forest of the Congo Basin – a cornerstone requirement of the DRC's proposed REDD+ programme – by providing a national forest carbon map. In addition, WWF together with the project’s German partner, the GFA Consulting Group, will evaluate and develop selected REDD+ mitigation activities in the soon-to-be-established Mai-Ndombe province.
These activities will form a crucial component of the jurisdictional REDD+ programme being proposed by the DRC’s national REDD+ coordinating body, CN-REDD. At stake are US$60 million in payments from what could soon become the largest forest emissions reduction programme in Africa – currently under approval review by the Carbon Fund of the World-Bank-managed Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
Deforestation rates in the country are still low compared to those observed in other tropical forests in the region, though they are accelerating, noted Victor Kabengele wa Kadilu, national REDD+ coordinator for the DRC. With REDD+, DRC has the opportunity to both alleviate the effects of climate change and invest in poverty reduction efforts, like those being proposed by GFA Consulting Group, that will significantly decrease deforestation pressures.
“DRC is losing forest and in the next few years there will be a crisis unless we act now,” said Kadilu.
At the workshop, Kadilu laid out a two-year work schedule for activities aimed at collecting field plots and the development of forest management plans. The production of the national forest carbon map is being led by WWF and the DRC government in collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Department des Inventaires et Amenagement Forestier (DIAF), the Observatoire Satellital des Forets d’Afrique Central, the Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature, and other organizations that are collecting data in field plot sites. This data will then be integrated with very high-resolution Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data from an airplane-based sensor flown by Southern Mapping Company, and combined with satellite imagery to produce a national biomass map.
The national biomass map “will be extremely detailed at the level of seeing small rivers and individual tree canopies,” said Dr. Sassan Saatchi, a scientist with the University of California, Los Angeles who will be leading the LiDAR and satellite processing work. The map will then be used to produce the national carbon map -- providing carbon estimates for every one-hectare area of forest. This will then be used by government officials to eventually monetize the country's unique forest value for sustainable development investments, and payments for environmental services, such as through REDD+.
The project also unites several major actors, including the Food and Agriculture Organization, which has been working closely with DIAF to develop the country's first national forest inventory and deforestation statistics, through a system known as Terra Congo. As part of this effort, Congolese technicians are being trained to enable the DRC government to use the map to monitor, report and verify annual emissions data, and share this information with the international climate community.
“We have been waiting for this for a long time,” said Sebastian Malele, head of DIAF, in welcoming the launch of the project. “We have moved along with our forest inventory in the past several years, and LiDAR is the essential part we need now to complete the REDD monitoring process.”
Joachim Schnurr of GFA Consulting added that, “There needs to be integrity in the calculation of emissions, as well as rigorous standards that attract buyers and also provide incentive payments to stakeholders implemented in a way that doesn't leave them waiting for two or three years.”
According to Schnurr, four types of REDD+ activities are possible in Mai-Ndombe to reduce emissions from deforestation and provide compensation for performance. These include improved forest management; the establishment of conservation concessions; the reduction of unsustainable shifting agriculture; and improved grazing management.
“Some of these can exist as standalone projects,” Schnurr added.
To support capacity building efforts, the project is sponsoring trainings, as well as graduate fellowships to enable Congolese students to pursue higher education in REDD+ related issues, forestry, and remote sensing.
Malele closed the workshop and thanked stakeholders for their participation by saying, “We have intelligently formulated our recommendations for the efficient execution of the project and now we are excited to see the project succeed.”
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For more information on WWF's international efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), visit www.panda.org/forestclimate.