REDD Alert for Forests and Climate
TIANJIN – The fate of the first global agreement to curb climate change by protecting forests is in the balance.
Unless crucial holes are plugged, it could subsidies their destruction, warned forest and climate experts from the Ecosystems Climate Alliance (ECA) at UN climate change talks here today.
Closed-door discussions resumed on the UN scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) which account for approximately 15-20 percent of total global emissions. But the political prestige to be gained from a hastily-agreed forests deal at the next round of talks in Cancun in December may lead to a perverse result that will fail to protect forests, peoples, or the planet.
“We need a REDD decision that will change business as usual, but what we see right now is a failure to focus on protecting intact natural forests and securing the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities,” said Nils Hermann Ranum of Rainforest Foundation Norway.
The urgency to conclude a REDD deal has accelerated since the new UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres announced her goal for specific and achievable agreements in Cancun, leaving more contentious matters until later. Practically, this means reducing the options on the table in Mexico and REDD, along with adaptation, finance, and technology transfer, is widely seen as one of the four issues where consensus can be reached.
ECA’s “REDD Alert” identifies four areas crucial to the success of REDD – none of which are resolved in the draft agreement under consideration.
Protect intact natural forests as a priority and ensure the recovery or restoration of degraded forests and peat lands
The text on the table does not guarantee that REDD will achieve its intention: protecting the earth’s remaining natural forests. ECA has proposed text language to negotiators that “affirms that the priority for REDD+ is to protect remaining intact natural forests, including all carbon pools, from further degradation.”
“If you don’t emphasize and prioritize protection of intact natural forests at REDD’s core, funds disbursed to save forests could instead subsidize industrial-scale logging,” said Peg Putt of the Wilderness Society. “Rewetting drained peat swamp forest areas is also a top priority to reduce massive ongoing emissions from these soils.”
Address demand-side international drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in both developed and developing countries
The global timber market, the principal driver of forest degradation, exceeds US$ 220 billion annually, while large scale agriculture is the next largest cause of deforestation. Moreover, a ”no questions asked” culture prevails with commodity trading networks on environmental and social impacts and governance concerns.
”Demand for illegally and unsustainably produced wood products, and for meat, soy and palm oil produced on areas that are deforested or converted to plantation is a key force behind forest destruction,” said Alistair Graham of Humane Society International. “We need to reduce the pressure on natural forests from consumers in developed countries by acting on their demand, not just putting responsibility on producer countries, so a strong REDD agreement must address drivers and promote legal trade with language directed to both.”
Ensure implementation of the environmental, social and governance safeguards together with their monitoring, reporting and verification
Despite fighting for over a year for concrete provisions that will protect the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, prevent the conversion of natural forests, protect biodiversity, and ensure good governance, these “safeguards” still lack teeth.
“Safeguards are safeguards only if they are actually implemented, monitored and enforced,” said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness. “With no provisions to monitor how countries are implementing REDD and applying safeguards, the REDD agreement is nothing more than a paper tiger.”
Provide for national reference levels and accounting
Requiring all countries to have national reference levels and accounting systems is needed to ensure integrity of national commitments. Of particular concern is the need to address “leakage” where progress in reducing emissions in one place merely results in increased emissions elsewhere.
Meanwhile, ECA members have recently been allowed to attend parallel meetings of the REDD+ Partnership of more than 60 countries, created by Norway and France in Oslo in May to discuss REDD fast-start actions and funding. Civil society representatives were previously barred from the Partnership meetings and their ongoing access is still not guaranteed.
”The Partnership is illegitimate if it doesn’t find a way to meaningfully involve stakeholders, indigenous peoples and local communities. Forests cannot be saved behind closed doors,” added Nils Hermann Ranum.
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The Ecosystems Climate Alliance (www.ecocystemsclimate.org) is an alliance of NGOs committed to keeping natural terrestrial ecosystems intact and their carbon out of the atmosphere. We work to ensure this is done in a way which is equitable, transparent, consistent with the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, and which takes place alongside deep and urgent cuts in fossil fuel emissions. ECA in Tianjin comprises Australian Orangutan Project, Global Witness, Humane Society International, Rainforest Foundation Norway, Wetlands International, and The Wilderness