Cancun REDD decision crucial to stop forest destruction

Posted on December, 08 2010

 A global strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+, is among the key agreements that need to come out of the United Nations climate talks ongoing in Cancun.
 Cancun, Mexico – A global strategy for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, known as REDD+, is among the key agreements that need to come out of the United Nations climate talks ongoing in Cancun.

Reaching an agreement on REDD+ is critical to saving forests, preserving biodiversity, and benefitting people, WWF said.

An estimated 60 million indigenous people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods, and forest resources directly support the livelihoods of 90 percent of the 1.2 billion living in extreme poverty, according to public data.

“REDD+ is ripe for a decision in Cancun,” said Gerald Steindlegger, Policy Director of WWF’s Forest Carbon Initiative. “But because a few critical issues are unresolved, there’s a real risk that governments could end up with a REDD+ deal that doesn’t benefit people or the planet. The world’s governments need to ensure they get REDD+ right.”

Government negotiators meeting in Cancun this week are considering several proposals to tackle climate change, including the emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation which account for 15 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Without a strong outcome here in Cancun, there will not be the necessary political signal or adequate funding to stem deforestation. Without an agreement on REDD+, negotiators will delay tackling the 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation. They would also delay taking urgent steps to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem integrity.”

REDD+ aims to reduce emissions by having developed countries pay developing countries to not cut down their forests. Because forests and their soil act as one of the largest storage for carbon on earth, this in turn reduces emissions because the forests are not cleared.

“Negotiators need to make a decision on REDD+ here in Cancun – or they risk losing progress made on proposals here to actually provide the basis to get this framework moving. A decision on REDD+ in Cancun would provide the security for countries to scale up their own ambitions stop deforestation.”

But negotiators still have some work to do to secure a strong REDD+ agreement.

Among the major issues negotiators are grappling with on REDD+ is the possibility that deforestation prevented in one area moves to another place, rather than actually being avoided. Under the current draft proposal in Cancun, countries could maintain a healthy forest in one region, while at the same time clearing a forest somewhere else. This needs to be fixed in the final deal.

In Cancun, negotiators need to address this risk, also referred to as “leakage or “displacement,” by supporting the ambitions of many countries to address this issue at the national level.

National-level approaches allow countries to address the root causes of deforestation and forest degradation, which are often tied to national policies on agriculture, timber, and mining. National programmes also allow countries to demonstrate accountability and results.

Though vital to the long-term success of REDD+, national programmes cannot be created overnight and REDD+ activities will need to happen at all levels – national, provincial, and local – as countries progress towards national programmes. Public funding should be used to help build these programs, while private market finance can play a role once those programs are in place.

Many countries while in Cancun are already announcing plans for their national-level frameworks for REDD+, including Mexico, the host country for these climate talks, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home to the second largest rainforest in the world.

Among other challenges for a REDD+ agreement are a lack of important language in the text on addressing the international drivers of deforestation, such as inadequate trade and economic policies. Concerns also exist on the financing for REDD+, with strong public financing from developed countries and the associated capacity building in tropical forest countries needed before any market offsets for REDD+ are considered.

There have been encouraging developments on fundamental pieces of the REDD+ agreement. The REDD+ text recognizes that REDD+ must demonstrably contributes to significant greenhouse gas reductions, while respecting and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and conserving natural forests and biodiversity. Verifying that REDD+ programmes are actually being implemented with these critical social and environmental safeguards is key to ensuring that REDD+ supports improved livelihoods and conservation of biodiversity.

“For REDD+ to succeed, all countries must do their fair share, with developed countries significantly cutting emissions domestically while providing long-term, adequate and reliable finance to support forest countries’ efforts to reduce their emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”
Young boy in forest burnt for cultivation. Madagascar.
Young boy in forest burnt for cultivation. Madagascar.
© John E. Newby / WWF