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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.

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).

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. 

Forests: One of the few bright spots in Copenhagen

Benoît Bosquet's picture
  Photo © iStockPhoto.com

With only about 36 hours left before the curtain falls on the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, forests have so far been one of the few bright spots. The Parties to the UNFCCC agree on the basic premise that the forests of developing nations ought to play a significant role in a future climate change regime. The activities that would be implemented, monitored and incentivized in a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol are referred to as 'REDD+', which includes reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserving forests, sustainably managing forests and enhancing forest carbon stocks (code for things like re-vegetation and reforestation).

The three-page framework text on REDD+ likely to be agreed upon in Copenhagen is good. It covers aspects such as the scope of activities, reporting and safeguards. The need to respect the knowledge and rights of indigenous peoples is included, which is a marked improvement from Poznan last year when the U.S. received the Fossil of the Day award from Climate Action Network for opposing this inclusion, or Bali two years ago when the launch of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility triggered a protest by some civil society groups. Some sticky points remain, including the details of how to link subnational monitoring and implementation with that at the national level. But, as of Thursday mid-day, the number of brackets in the REDD+ text was significantly lower than in the general text on climate finance. 

“The Route of Smoke” from Brazil wins EJA’s Global Public Award in Copenhagen

Kavita Watsa's picture

Winners of the Global Public Award given on December 14th 2009 in Copenhagen: Andreia Fanzeres and Cristiane Prizibisczki for “The Route of Smoke”. Photo courtesy: Earth Journalism Awards web site.
For anyone who’s been following the Earth Journalism Awards, the much-awaited Global Public Award was announced yesterday in Copenhagen. Thousands of people from across the world voted online for this award, helping to pick the best story.

And the winner of the Global Public Award is…"The Route of Smoke," a multimedia report put together by two Brazilian journalists, Andreia Fanzeres and Cristiane Prizibisczki. They tell the story of how customary farming practices—such as setting fire to land before planting—that contribute to the country's emissions are clashing with new methods for responsible agriculture. This entry also won the Latin America regional award. 

A Scientific and Technological Revolution for the Amazon

Carlos A. Nobre's picture

 
    Photo © Yosef Hadar/World Bank
Most tropical countries have not reached full-fledged social and economic development, but all of them are endowed with plenty of natural resources. Today’s unprecedented global climate threat offers tropical countries a unique opportunity  to become ‘environmental powers’ by utilizing their natural resource base wisely to aid development, while significantly reducing environmental damage.

The Amazon basin harbours the largest contiguous tropical forest on the planet, spread over eight countries. Over the past four decades the Amazon has been subjected to deforestation, forest degradation, global warming, and vegetation fires. However, the model for development of the Amazon—which is based on replacing forests with agriculture and cattle ranches—can be criticized on more than just environmental grounds. It can be faulted on economic grounds too. For example, the gross agricultural product of the Brazilian Amazon represents less than 0.5% of the Brazilian GDP. Sadly, fifty years of deforestation have brought neither wealth nor quality of life for most Amazônidas.

Climate Change and indigenous people: Local actions, global benefits

Guillermo Recio Guajardo's picture

The author, Guillermo Recio Guajardo, won second place in an international youth essay competition sponsored by the World Bank and other partners. He answered the question “How can you tackle climate change through youth-led solutions?” The awards were announced in Seoul in June, 2009.

The Sierra Tarahumara in Chihuahua, Mexico
   Photo by Guillermo Recio Guajardo

Over the years, several multinational companies and global groups have entered the ancestral territories of indigenous communities in Mexico, and the process of modernization has often damaged the environment.

For example, both legal and illegal logging are now common in the Sierra Tarahumara in Mexico’s Chihuahua state. This territory is home to about 84,000 Rarámuris or Tarahumara Indians who depend on forest conservation for their livelihood and preservation of their culture. But deforestation and loss of biodiversity are a severe threat—with almost 90 percent of the wood for the forest industry in Chihuahua coming from the Sierra Tarahumara—and are increasing an irreversible ecological imbalance.

Illegal logging has also been causing upheaval in Mexico’s climate system. Without enough trees in our tropical and temperate forests, it is impossible to capture carbon dioxide. According to recent research, "Mexico has deforested more than one-third of its forests and jungles, thereby reducing its original woodland area of 52 percent of the country to 33 percent in the year 2000."1