Forests, REDD, & Posnan

So-REDD is being marketed heavily in Posnan-where Indigenous Peoples’ are largely locked out (again)…aren’t these climate parties a regular hoot?


In concept, forests can be used for carbon offset programs. However,
at the same time, getting from concept to policy and practice is
another matter, involving “difficult” choices, as a report to be
released today from climate and forest scientists makes clear.
“But there are a range of complex issues facing the talks, such as:
the appropriate scale for implementing REDD projects; how to
incorporate forest degradation (as opposed to simply deforestation)
as part of the agreement; whether or not technology is sufficiently
advanced to measure and monitor forest-based carbon; how to guarantee
that forests conserved for carbon are not subsequently lost; and how
to ensure that the rights of forest-dwelling communities are
recognized and respected.”

Center for International Forestry Research
Public release date: 5-Dec-2008

Contact: Jeff Haskins

Megan Dold

Report offers options for negotiators seeking to craft critical
accord on forests and climate change

Leading scientists say that technical options exist to address most
challenges, and that the difficult choices will involve making
trade-offs among effectiveness, efficiency and equity

POZNAN (5 December 2008)-The Center for International Forestry
Research (CIFOR) today released a comprehensive analysis clarifying
major challenges and offering an assortment of options that could
help negotiators reach a global agreement on reducing carbon
emissions tied to forest destruction and degradation.

The report, Moving ahead with REDD: Issues, options and implications,
is set to be released as officials from around the world have
gathered here under the auspices of the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC). Negotiators are seeking to outline a new
global agreement for reducing greenhouse gases, which will set the
stage for final decisions scheduled for 2009 in Copenhagen.

Central to the process is the effort aimed at reducing emissions from
deforestation and forest degradation, or REDD, which will involve
financial incentives and compensation for developing countries to
conserve their forests. The idea is that REDD will enable forest
conservation to compete financially with the economic drivers of
deforestation and forest degradation, which currently favor
destructive logging practices and conversion of forest land to other
uses, such as cattle pasture and plantation crops.

Estimates suggest that forest loss and degradation account for up to
one fifth of the annual global greenhouse gases attributed to human
activity, and calculations indicate that REDD will be more
cost-effective than most climate mitigation measures. The CIFOR
report suggests that integrating REDD with tighter overall emissions
targets will enable negotiators to deliver a more ambitious global
climate strategy for little or no extra cost.

But there are a range of complex issues facing the talks, such as:
the appropriate scale for implementing REDD projects; how to
incorporate forest degradation (as opposed to simply deforestation)
as part of the agreement; whether or not technology is sufficiently
advanced to measure and monitor forest-based carbon; how to guarantee
that forests conserved for carbon are not subsequently lost; and how
to ensure that the rights of forest-dwelling communities are
recognized and respected.

“Our analysis allows negotiators to see that while the REDD process
is indeed complicated, there is a clear set of options available for
the issues under discussion,” said Frances Seymour, CIFOR’s Director
General. “And each option usually involves some trade-offs related to
effectiveness, efficiency and equity. These talks are too important
to fail, but given the solutions available, there is ample
opportunity for success”.

“Many are concerned that the global financial crisis will not only
undermine industrialized countries’ commitments to reduce emissions –
which are essential to the overall objective — but also their
willingness to pay for carbon offset initiatives in developing
countries,” said Seymour. “The willingness to play on the part of
developing countries will depend on the perceived fairness and
accessibility of these schemes.”

Scale, “leakage” and “the second D”

The CIFOR report examines a wide range of issues related to the
design of REDD, including the ongoing debate over the appropriate
geographical scale of such initiatives. Overall, most countries are
favoring implementation of REDD at a national level, arguing that,
among other things, it would deter what is known as “carbon leakage.”
Carbon leakage occurs when a reduction in forest emissions achieved
in one area simply prompts the deforestation or degradation
activities to shift to another area.

“A national approach would account for all domestic leakage, and
governments would be stimulated to use a broad set of policies to
reduce forest emissions,” said Arild Angelsen, CIFOR scientist and
Professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “But,
focusing strictly on this option means that, in the near-term at
least, REDD programs would be feasible for only a few middle-income
countries, and also carries high risk of governance failures and
‘nationalization’ of carbon rights – leaving less for local
communities. On the other hand, a sub-national or project approach
allows for early involvement and wide participation and is attractive
to private investors.” Angelsen, who edited the report, which
includes contributions from 20 scientists, favors a “nested
approach”, where countries can commence initiatives at the
sub-national level, and transfer to national level accounting within
a certain time period.

“Negotiators also need to establish clear and appropriate reference
levels – or baselines – from which to measure emission reductions,”
added Angelsen. “They have to balance the risk of paying for credits
that do not truly reduce emissions if baselines are too generous; and
low participation and rejection by developing countries if baselines
are set too tight. There is potential for this issue to become a real
stumbling block to achieving an effective agreement.”

The report also looks at the inclusion of forest degradation in the
design of any REDD scheme. Degradation can occur from activities such
as logging, livestock grazing, and firewood gathering. CIFOR notes
that countries where deforestation is the main concern may have
little interest in investing in the monitoring necessary to measure
carbon released through forest degradation. On the other hand,
incentives to reduce degradation could be appealing to countries in
the Congo Basin, where there are large areas of forest cover but low
deforestation rates.

“If you incorporate forest degradation into the REDD mechanism, it
might be more difficult to implement but it would more effectively
account for forest-related carbon emissions,” said Daniel Murdiyarso,
CIFOR scientist and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC). “It also would be more equitable because it would
encourage many more developing countries-for which degradation is the
main culprit-to participate.”

Other issues addressed by the CIFOR report include:

How to monitor and verify carbon emissions from what are often remote
forested regions. CIFOR asserts that the technology is now available
to effectively and efficiently monitor carbon in forested regions,
although there still are trade-offs between precision and costs.
However, according to the report most issues related to monitoring
are political rather than technical, and the talks in Poland should
focus on establishing a strong and independent verification system to
ensure that emission reductions are real.

How to pay for REDD programs. The CIFOR report notes that public
financing will likely be needed to help developing countries,
particularly the very poor countries, participate in programs for
reducing emissions from forests. Lucrative funding from carbon
markets is being projected for such schemes, and access to the fast
growing international carbon markets are needed to mobilize the
amounts needed to tap into the full potential of REDD. But CIFOR
cautions that in tropical forests, land-tenure conflicts and law
enforcement issues that pre-date the REDD talks will need to be
clarified if there is to be equitable participation in market-based

How to ensure that reductions in emissions are permanent. One of the
primary concerns for investors in REDD is the fact that terrestrial
carbon stored in forests can at any time be released into the
atmosphere if there is a natural disaster or if a landowner decides
to convert the land to non-forest uses. The report asserts that such
risks can be addressed, but will require clear allocation of
liability, strong regulation and start-up incentives.

“Our purpose is not to push one position over another, but to ensure
that everyone is aware of all the options available and the
implications of various choices,” said Angelsen. “Overall, people are
beginning to realize that when it comes to REDD, there is unlikely to
be any ‘one size fits all’ solution. The best way to design and
implement a global REDD regime may be a flexible approach that allows
countries to proceed with several different models simultaneously,
which evolve over time depending on what works best for a particular
set of circumstances.”

“REDD also has the potential to achieve significant co-benefits, over
and above reducing carbon emissions,” added Seymour. “These include
alleviating poverty, improving governance, and protecting
biodiversity and other environmental services. But a careful balance
is needed: On the one hand, REDD should be designed to capture these
co-benefits, and must include safeguards to ensure that it does no
harm. On the other hand, if REDD is overloaded with technical
requirements and legitimate non-climate considerations, the
transaction costs of participation could be too high.”

“In any case, for REDD to be successful, it will require the
cooperation of the local people who are best positioned to exercise
stewardship over the forest to be protected. They must be part of the
process if REDD is to succeed.”

The report will be officially launched at a media conference at the
UNFCCC 14th Conference of the Parties, in Poznan, Poland, on Friday
5th December at 10:30am. It will be released in conjunction with a
second report, Facing an Uncertain Future: How Forests and People can
Adapt to Climate Change, which looks at the need for negotiators to
sufficiently consider the role of forests in climate change
adaptation strategies, as well as in mitigation.


Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)

CIFOR advances human wellbeing, environmental conservation and equity
by conducting research to inform policies and practices that affect
forests in developing counties. CIFOR helps ensure that
decision-making that affects forests is based on solid science and
principles of good governance, and reflects the perspectives of
developing countries and forest-dependent people. CIFOR is one of 15
centres within the Consultative Group on International Agricultural
Research. For more information, please visit:


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