Central Europe’s high level of technical knowledge in forest management can help tropical forests



Posted on 13 February 2014  | 
Paul Chatterton.
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Paul Chatterton is Director of REDD+ Landscapes with WWF's Forest and Climate Programme. He has designed, initiated and overseen WWF’s major activities on land-use based carbon mitigation and reducing emissions from deforestation. Applying his more than 25 years of experience in the fields of conservation and sustainable development, he is currently developing large-scale carbon emission reduction programmes linked to national REDD+ frameworks in the largest tropical forest countries of the world. When he is not in the field, Paul is based in Vienna, Austria. He attends the global WWF forest specialists meeting in Bulgaria this week.

What is REDD+ about and will it save the forests?

- REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) was an idea that was generated at the Bali conference of the Climate Convention back in 2007. The world’s governments agreed that we need to do something to stop the rainforests from burning, because they were contributing up to 20% of the carbon emissions that were causing climate change, almost as much as all of the transport worldwide combined.

We’ve been working on that for the last 7-8 years. Now we see signs of it working in the rainforests of the planet. Some of the money is starting to get there on the ground, projects are being designed and commitments have been made from governments to protect forests.

Part of the reason it has been moving forward is that the world has put 7 billion dollars behind this pledge from the rich countries to pay the poorest countries to protect their forests. And that’s got people’s attention. It’s meant that some of the countries have started to move forward really rapidly. Norwegian government has given a billion dollars to Indonesia to protect their forests and they are starting to design large projects to protect large areas of forest. They have orangutans, tigers and rhinos in them.

A billion dollars were given to Brazil and that’s made a big difference in the amount of protected areas and the reduction of logging that’s been going on. Similar amounts are going to Congo. We are designing a project there that’s about the size of Austria and Switzerland combined to protect the rainforest. The government wants to see the logging concessions cancelled and turned into – they call it – carbon concessions, but they are really conservation concessions to benefit the local community and protect the rainforest at the same time.

How sustainable is this going to be in the long term?

- This all depends on 2015 when the world comes together in Paris and will decide whether to continue this mechanism. If they do, the idea is that there should be payments to protect the rainforest of the next generation. Programs we are developing in the Amazon, Borneo and Congo are just starting to get this happening.

But if there is a commitment in 2015, we are looking at 50 years of funding to protect enormous areas of rainforest. So it’s quite a radical change from what we’ve seen before, when as conservationists we had little money to protect little sections of rainforest. Now we have the hope that the world will protect very large areas for a very long time.

REDD+ is about tropical wood but many people in Central and Eastern Europe are concerned that their forests are disappearing too.

- Every single country has the responsibility to protect and manage its forests and reduce its carbon emissions. We are all stewing in our own juices. We have to protect and expand our forests. We have to help the countries with a rainforest to protect it. And Central Europe can assist as there is a high level of technical knowledge in forest management. There is very little technical expertise in the tropical countries. So there is potentially a lot of help that foresters and environmentalists in the region can provide to protect the rainforest.

It’s important that we all think about the products that we buy and make sure there is no rainforest destruction. If you buy timber, look for the FSC label. That can assure you that no rainforest was destroyed. Watch out for palm oil since this is one of the biggest destroyers of rainforests in Asia. You may be amazed how many products contain palm oil. Don’t touch it, unless it’s been certified.

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