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Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The Mobile-Finance Revolution
Foreign Affairs
The roughly 2.5 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day are not destined to remain in a state of chronic poverty. Every few years, somewhere between ten and 30 percent of the world’s poorest households manage to escape poverty, typically by finding steady employment or through entrepreneurial activities such as growing a business or improving agricultural harvests. During that same period, however, roughly an equal number of households slip below the poverty line. Health-related emergencies are the most common cause, but there are many more: crop failures, livestock deaths, farming-equipment breakdowns, even wedding expenses.  In many such situations, the most important buffers against crippling setbacks are financial tools such as personal savings, insurance, credit, or cash transfers from family and friends. Yet these are rarely available because most of the world’s poor lack access to even the most basic banking services.


Mozilla plans '$25 smartphone' for emerging markets
BBC Technology
Mozilla has shown off a prototype for a $25 (£15) smartphone that is aimed at the developing world. The company, which is famed mostly for its Firefox browser, has partnered with Chinese low-cost chip maker Spreadtrum. While not as powerful as more expensive models, the device will run apps and make use of mobile internet. It would appeal to the sorts of people who currently buy cheap "feature" phones, analysts said. Feature phones are highly popular in the developing world as a halfway point between "dumb" phones - just voice calls and other basic functions - and fully-fledged smartphones.

Efforts to Protect Tropical Forests Take Big Step Forward – and Money Awaits

Ken Andrasko's picture


 

Last week in Paris, the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility’s partners and stakeholders agreed on groundbreaking rules for investments in tropical forest protection in developing nations – a framework that will also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our rapidly warming world.

Capping an intense five days of negotiations, this major milestone unblocks $390 million in funding held in escrow in the facility’s Carbon Fund. The agreement (formally known as a Methodological Framework) spells out how tropical countries should design and implement large-scale protection programs in the lowland and mountain forests of the tropics.

In return, the countries get results-based payments from donor countries that support climate policy and social development goals.

It’s the first time an international organization has put on paper the operational rules for purchasing so-called REDD+ credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (REDD is short for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.)

Reaching consensus on the operational roadmap for REDD+ required input from a diverse set of sometimes-contradictory viewpoints.

Seated at the table to negotiate through the many issues in Paris were donor countries, private corporations, officials from tropical countries willing to experiment with REDD+, civil society organizations and representatives from indigenous groups who were championing the rights of traditional dwellers in tropical forests.

Becoming a “Forest Savior”: Community Participation for Conservation

Faria Selim's picture

 Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World Bank“The forest is an integral part of my life and only source of income. We exploited it until we saw people killed in landslides in the neighboring areas. Gradually we became aware of the consequences of unplanned felling of trees. Now we protect our forest alongside the Forest Department. I own two hectares of forest land and they pay for its maintenance. I have earned a good amount after the first felling,” says a proud Sabbir, participant from a social forestry initiative of the Government of Bangladesh, Ukhiarghat, Cox’s Bazar.  
 
The Government of Bangladesh initiated the Social Forestry programs with a view to meet the forest product requirements of the local population, reverse the process of ecological and climatic degradation through proper soil and water conservation, and also to improve the socioeconomic condition of the rural people.
 
Forests are the primary buffer against cyclones, storms and surges for over 16 million people living in the vulnerable coastal zone of Bangladesh. Over the last three decades, forests in Bangladesh have declined by 2.1% annually, accumulating to almost half of all forest cover, due to deforestation, illegal logging and harvesting, slash-and-burn agriculture, conversion into non-forestland for settlement, farming, recreation and industries. With the likely increased incidence and intensity of extreme cyclonic events, efforts must focus on reversing the decline in forests in order to adequately safeguard people against threats induced by climate change.

Green gold for Gabon?

Gold panning in LTTC-Mandra forest concession © Program on Forests
  • “Artisanal miners are poor exploited human beings who are forced to dig for minerals under unbearable circumstances. They should be liberated.”
  • “Artisanal miners are elephant poachers who destroy the environment. They should be evicted.”
  • “Artisanal miners are successful small entrepreneurs. They should be supported and stimulated.”
  • “Artisanal miners are economically inefficient. They should be replaced by large scale industrial operators.”
  • “Artisanal miners are illegal and do not contribute any revenue to the state. They need to be registered and controlled.”

Carbon for (clean) water in Western Kenya

Carmen Elsa Lopez Abramson's picture

Available in: Español 

An hour down a dirt road stands the most beautiful natural treasure in Kenya’s Western Province—the Kakamega Forest. The forest is a fraction of its former size, and it grows smaller every day because of the insatiable demand for firewood.

Why Jane Goodall sees redd when she thinks of forest protection

Benoît Bosquet's picture

When Jane Goodall spoke Tuesday at the World Bank, she said she had recently begun to understand the exciting potential value of REDD – reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. For decades, Dr. Goodall and others have been fighting for the conservation of forests to preserve and protect animal habitat– in the case of Dr. Goodall, that of chimpanzees in Tanzania. And now, many people like Jane Goodall are making the connection between this battle and the fight against climate change.
By granting greater value to trees that are alive and standing rather than cut down, and making payments to reduce emissions by preserving forests, not only does the climate benefit but biodiversity is also protected, including species that are under the threat of extinction.

In her talk to staff, Dr. Goodall spoke about her shock when she discovered the extent of deforestation surrounding the national park in Tanzania in which her famous study of chimpanzees has taken place over the past 50 years.“It was in early 1990 that I flew over the Gombe National Park – it’s tiny, it’s only 30 square miles, but we flew over all the land around it and it was absolutely horrifying to me to see that, yes, I knew there was deforestation outside the park but I had not realized it was total deforestation“, said Dr. Goodall .

REDD provides a new opportunity to scale up initiatives like those of Jane Goodall to the national level, raises the profile of conservation work, and potentially creates new sources of funding for forest protection. But REDD also has a lot to gain from Dr. Goodall’s experience and wisdom. She is arguably the greatest ambassador for wildlife and forest conversation in the world today. Now she squeezes the annual UN conferences into her astounding, 300-day-a-year travel schedule. Anywhere she goes, she greets audiences with the call of the chimpanzee, and proceeds to make a compelling case about what REDD could be on the ground – forest protection, stewardship of flagship species, but also socio-economic development (the Jane Goodall Institute funds myriad projects aimed at improving communities’ well-being).

Of owls, ethics and other matters

Saadia Iqbal's picture

There’s no denying the importance of biodiversity. When scientists, NGOs, policymakers and others try to convince everyone to protect biodiversity, they remind us of how we depend on it for livelihoods, medicines, soil protection and all kinds of other things, big and small.

So, naturally, we as humans have a selfish interest in looking after our world’s plants and animals.

Do we still need REDD if deforestation is decreasing in the Amazon?

Carlos A. Nobre's picture
Amazon birds -- iStockphoto
Two macaws in the Amazon.
Photo © istockphoto.com

Although the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen badly failed to achieve legally binding agreements, including on the specific mechanism of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), there was nevertheless a general sense that this mechanism is something worth pursuing. Meetings and discussions continued to take place after the conference was over, and a fund of US$ 10 billion is being set up to promote initial steps for tropical developing countries to prepare for REDD.

What lessons can be learned from the Brazilian Amazon, where deforestation rates have been steadily declining for 5 years?

Compared to estimates of land-cover change emissions from elsewhere in the tropics, estimates in the Brazilian Amazon tend to be relatively more certain because they are calculated from annual, satellite-based monitoring of land cover change for over two decades for the Brazilian portion of the Amazon. That is the work of the PRODES Project carried out by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) of Brazil. 

Deforestation in the Amazon changes a lot from year to year. The proximate causes are not totally known. They have to do with economic drivers such as prices of commodities (beef, soy, etc.), the opening of roads, but they are also influenced by the effectiveness of law enforcement to curb illegal deforestation.

The latter may have played a key role in reducing deforestation in the last 5 years. During that period, annual deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon plummeted from over 27 thousand km2 (August 2003-July 2004) to around 7 thousand km2 (August 2008-July 2009), an amazing 74% reduction over 5 years!

Tropical Land-Use Change Emissions—Smaller, but Still Very Significant

Carlos A. Nobre's picture
 
  Photo © iStockphoto.com

Before the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) held in December 2009 in Copenhagen, the Brazilian media picked up the issue of REDD (Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). A variety of somewhat conflicting statements came from all quarters: the scientific community, government authorities, environmental NGOs and other interest groups. As expected, they spanned a wide range of views on the issue.

Broadly speaking, tropical deforestation has been declining. Thus, a fundamental question has been put forward: are land-use change emissions of GHGs quantitatively significant enough to warrant a special mechanism under the UNFCCC? Some critics of REDD maintain that emissions from tropical land-use change are not as large as has been assumed, and that it is not as important as emissions from other sectors such as fossil fuel combustion.

Even before I get into the details, let me emphasize that tropical deforestation and REDD are still just as significant as before, and as important, for instance, as the share from transportation emissions. As I will describe in this post, the latest calculations using new data that has become available after the last IPCC report (2007)—following the same methodology as the IPCC—shows that the share of tropical land-use change in overall CO2 emissions has fallen. However, looking at the big picture, tropical deforestation is still a massive issue to tackle in the battle against climate change and attention should not be diverted from REDD. 

Yet-to-be-released online mapping tool could make monitoring deforestation easy as Google

James I Davison's picture

We’ve written before about a climate-related effort in developing countries known as REDD – or Reducing Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation. So one of the outcomes during last month’s U.N. climate conference that I found particularly interesting was an announcement from Google.org. During the conference in Copenhagen, the search giant's philanthropic arm introduced the prototype for an online application that will allow monitoring of forests around the planet.

Apparently, some believed that the overall topic of REDD may have been one of the few bright spots during the two-week conference. To me, it seems like this forthcoming online monitoring tool is no exception – particularly because Google products are often innovative, easy to use and reliable.

The announcement generated quite bit of media buzz, and Google.org’s press release has a nice explanation of why the online application, likely available to the public some time this year, might be so significant:

Traditional forest monitoring is complex and expensive, requiring access to large amounts of satellite data, lots of hard drives to hold the data, lots of computers to process the data, and lots of time while you wait for various computations to finish. … Google supplies data, storage, and computing muscle. As a result, you can visualize forest change in fractions of a second over the web, instead of the minutes or hours that traditional offline systems require for such analysis.

 


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