Forest conservation solutions
Five experiences promoting reduction in deforestation and forest degradation in the Amazon, with programmes and projects of national and sub-national governments, local communities and Indigenous Peoples, from Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, were the highlights of a workshop entitled Building the Treasure Map: REDD+Experiences in Latin America, which served to identify good practices and lessons learned from eight REDD projects currently being implemented with WWF participation or support.
Other aspects assessed, in Latin America, were the conservation of areas of Atlantic Forest, in Paraguay, and the process of implementing Mexico’s national REDD strategy.
REDD is a mechanism that aims to foster the reduction in deforestation and forest degradation by providing economic incentives. The expanded concept, called REDD+, includes the conservation and sustainable use of forests and the maintenance of the carbon stocks that they hold. But it is crucially important to respect the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples as well as to promote good conservation of biodiversity. And those incentives are not necessarily through markets, only.
Deforestation and forest degradation originate as much as 20 percent of global carbon emissions. Every year from 12 to 15 million hectares of forests disappear and only 10 countries are responsible for 80% of all global deforestation. Brazil and Indonesia alone generate 51% of all emissions stemming from loss of forest coverage.
Forests play a vital role in combating global warming, so that reducing deforestation and forest degradation is part of the solution for the world’s global climate change problems. This strengthens the reasons why WWF defends the idea of zero net deforestation, and correspondent emissions, by 2020.
The Amazon, for example, is the biggest tropical forest in the world, covering an area of 6.7 million km2 in nine countries (Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela and France – the latter by the overseas territory of French Guyana). The Amazon forest stocks somewhere between 90 and 140 billion tons of carbon and if they were to be liberated, they would significantly accelerate the global warming process.
Mostly due to the reduction of deforestation in Brazil promoted by a national plan, with monitoring, creation and implementation of protected areas, reduction of perverse economic incentives, enforcement, and patrolling, among other actions, the Amazon is probably the place on Earth that has made the strongest contribution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade. Nevertheless, deforestation and ecosystem degradation –and consequent emissions– in Brazil are still very high and are increasing in the other Amazon countries, such as Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
Therefore, both to fulfil the expected contribution to reducing impact in global climate and to the benefit to the Amazon region and its populations, all kinds of support for strengthening the trends and possibilities for reducing deforestation should be promoted. Nevertheless, it is absolutely clear that the solution relies on association of components, such as traditional and scientific knowledge, sound policies of land-use planning, management by local communities and access to financial markets, combining different products and services from the forests and other ecosystems, etc.
Integrating public policies and the process of engaging society at large in the sustainable development project implemented by the Government of the Brazilian State of Acre was one of the subjects discussed at the workshop.
With strong support from WWF (Brazil and UK) and the British broadcasting company TV SKY News, Acre is implementing an innovative experience involving payment for environmental services. The project is seeking to protect an area of 3 million hectares of forest in the municipalities Manoel Urbano and Feijó, due to its risky location alongside a highway which is finishing to be paved.
Maria Jocicleide Lima de Aguiar, of the Amazon Working Group (GTA), explained the process of designing a public policy of payment for ecosystem services included the important strategy of mobilising various sectors of society by holding public consultations.
“Merely inviting people to take part in the discussions is not enough. People and groups need to be prepared and provided with good information on climate change issues and problems, on why it is so important to preserve the forest and on the project’s objectives. That enables them to participate more effectively in the official consultation processes. It is also essential to listen to what the communities have to say and identify their needs and expectations; that is exactly what has happened in Acre”, declared Jocicleide Aguiar.
WWF-Brazil’s conservation expert Antonio Oviedo emphasised that encouraging participation is the best way of engaging the various social actors involved and generating co-responsibility for implementation and achieving results. “Integrating public policies and social participation is one of the best ways of finding solutions”, he said.
According to Claudio Maretti, WWF Living Amazon Initiative´s leader, as in the case of Acre, for the Amazon region, this only makes sense within larger and longer term programmes and policy measures. “It is fundamental that policies include promotion of products and services from forests and other ecosystems –by supporting sustainable use, facilitating adding value, respecting and strengthening local communities, implementing protection and monitoring.– in what they have been calling in Acre “Florestania” (a “Forest Citizenship”)”, he explained.
Amazonian Indigenous REDD+
Combining traditional wisdom and different scientific approaches, the progressive inter-cultural construction of a REDD+ proposal contributes towards ensuring its legitimacy and sustainability. That was a lesson learned shared by Diego Escobar, representing the Coordination of Indigenous Organizations in the Amazon (COICA), and Liliana Lozano, a conservation expert attached to WWF-Peru.
COICA, with the support of WWF-Peru and the Living Amazon Initiative, amongst other organisations, is designing a proposal that seeks to enhance the material and non-material values of the integrality of ecosystem services provided by Indigenous Peoples lands in the Amazon, which go far beyond carbon sequestering or storing services.
The idea is to adopt an integral vision of the Indigenous Peoples’ environmental, social and cultural contributions and determine that any valuing or rewarding mechanism must recognise and include the rights of those peoples and their historical role as forest conservation protagonists, and their pool of traditional knowledge and wisdom that, in some cases, science itself does not possess.
Currently 25% of the Amazon is Indigenous Peoples lands, corresponding to 12% of the world’s tropical forests. The deforestation rate in indigenous territories is less than 2%, similar to that registered in protected areas, underscoring the relevant role they play in preserving the integrity of the ecosystems.
The Amazonian Indigenous REDD+ proposal is that: the legal framework must respect and consider indigenous rights with funding for implementing projects guaranteed by countries and global funds; there must be institutional adjustments to allow Indigenous Peoples’ participation in any decision making processes involving the REDD+ mechanism; safeguards must exist to ensure that there are public policies and funds provided to guarantee territorial security; macro-monitoring must be done that includes biological and cultural aspects to verify coverage and conservation of ecosystem services; and there must be an equitable, regulated, public financing mechanism that provides transparency in all REDD+ projects and operations.
To the benefit of all
Forests and other ecosystems are vital to ensure long term food, water and energy security and equity, and also are the best “insurance” to reduce the consequences of strong weather manifestations – which are increasing due to climate change. For those and other reasons, under local, national and global interests, the services from the forests and other ecosystems need to be further recognised and supported, including by economic means, but not only market ones, ensuring the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples and good conservation of biodiversity.