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REDD in the news: 11-17 May 2009

REDD in the news: 11-17 May 2009

IIED released an important report this week: “Tenure in REDD: Start-point or afterthought”, looking in detail at tenure issues in a REDD context. UNEP and GEF started a “Carbon Benefits Project”, aimed at “measuring, monitoring and managing carbon in a diverse range of landscapes.”

Joe Romm wrote on Climate Progress about Waxman-Markey illustrating just how much the US might rely on forest offsets. Meanwhile in Australia offset companies have overestimated the amount of carbon in forests, according to Landcare CarbonSmart, a carbon trading company.

Several articles appeared in the Guyana press about REDD, partly as a result of President Jagdeo’s trip to New York for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, which in turn generated its own coverage.

Ecosystem Marketplace looked back at how REDD was discussed at the climate negotiations in Bonn last month. David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Global Canopy Programme held a meeting on REDD in Frankfurt. The British High Commissioner in Nigeria wrote that forests “must be included” in the Copenhagen deal “and part of the future carbon market”. And a transboundary Peace Park in Sierra Leone and Liberia was opened.

11 May 2009
Lake Victoria Communities Could Be Key to Millions of ‘Climate’ Dollars For Poor Around the World
United Nations Environment Programme, Press Release.
Scientists working under the GEF-funded Carbon Benefits Project will “closely study projects in Western Kenya, Western China, Niger and Nigeria and develop a system for measuring, monitoring and managing carbon in a diverse range of landscapes.”

If REDD is agreed as part of a post-2012 climate regime, this could open the door to carbon storage payments for other kinds of nature-based management covering ‘ecosystems’ such as grasslands, pasturelands, peatlands and mangroves.

It could also open the door to more environmentally-friendly kinds of agriculture from agroforestry to conservation farming, as they too can store large amounts of carbon in vegetation and soils.

12 May 2009
Agro-Forestry Study May Open Carbon Market To Poor
By Daniel Wallis, Reuters.
The US$12 million Carbon Benefits Project led by UNEP and GEF will “see how much carbon is stored in trees and soil when land is managed sustainably”.

Carbon trading puts a cap on emissions in one region but allows participants to pay for cuts elsewhere, and so channels funds into developing countries.

But such carbon offsets could divert from climate action at home, sceptics say. Greenpeace said in March that the price of carbon market credits prices could fall 75 percent if credits for safeguarding forests were added to existing markets for industrial emissions — dramatically reducing the incentive for carbon reduction.

Including soil among carbon offsets options could further swamp demand. Scientists say that the soil could store as much as one-tenth of annual global carbon emissions, if farmers used longer crop rotations and grazed fewer livestock, for example.

Indonesia to adapt the world’s first forest scheme
By Morten Andersen, COP15 Copenhagen.
Indonesia has adopted the world’s first national regulations on REDD.

”From a private sector perspective, these new REDD regulations are really encouraging, as they provide more certainty on process and procedure to implement a project,” Dorjee Sun, CEO of Carbon Conservation, tells Reuters. The organization works with the Indonesian government to create the world’s first independently validated REDD project in the Ulu Masan region.

Big questions linger around major source of carbon emissions
By Lea Radick, New York Times.
A new report from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), “Tenure in REDD: Start-point or afterthought“, looks at land ownership, rights and access to natural resources in the context of REDD.

However, the possible inclusion of “reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation,” or REDD, projects in a post-2012 global climate change framework could mean exploitation of local communities who live in and around rainforests by governments or powerful private-sector stakeholders if land tenure has not been formally established, he said.

“We’re trying to point out who decides and owns forest resources is going to be at the heart of any new set of arrangements for climate change as it is and has been [at] the heart of pretty much all other questions of governance and forest resource use,” [IIED’s James] Mayers said yesterday about the report.

Mobilization for Climate Justice Open Letter to the Grassroots
The Mobilization for Climate Justice is a North America-based network of organizations and activists who have joined together to build a North American climate justice movement.

Help ensure that large-scale, destructive corporate-controlled false solutions to climate change are eliminated. This includes so-called “clean coal,” agrofuels (industrial scale biofuels), nuclear power, and large-scale hydropower. It also includes REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)-the UN and World Bank initiative that offers incentives for countries to sell off their forests, expel Indigenous and peasant communities, and transform biodiverse and carbon-rich forests into industrial timber plantations.

How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Waxman-Markey, Part 2: In Praise Of Domestic Offsets
By Joe Romm, Climate Progress.
Romm argues that as long as there is a cap, offsets are fine. Note the amount of domestic offsets that are anticipated from the forestry sector under Waxman-Markey:

And yes, I am a tad worried about all of the forestry offsets from 2030 on. The EPA will need to come up with a rigorous protocol for such projects. But the reason I’m not more worried is that it is hard to quickly generate hundreds of millions of metric tons of offsets from forestry, so EPA will have time to get this right. Also, it is not terribly hard to use satellite-based monitoring to determine if, on net, the United States is adding trees or cutting them down. Indeed, that is precisely why we need to move away from project-based forest management to national-accounting-based forest management — you don’t want to pay someone to plant 1000 acres in one place and then have them cut down 2000 acres in some other place. And after all, if the United Nations can adopt that approach for poorer countries, with its Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing countries (REDD) effort, then so the United States can certainly do so for its own forest management and afforestation efforts.

Guyana among likely major REDD players
Guyana Chronicle.
IIED’s report “Tenure in REDD” includes Guyana in the countries studied.

It says that the annual rate of deforestation in Guyana is estimated to be between 0.1 and 0.3 per cent.

“At present uncontrolled small-scale gold mining is one of the main drivers. However, there are serious concerns that a new highway from Brazil (Manaus) to Georgetown will result in substantial land encroachment by Brazilian ex-road builders and ex-gold miners in previously inaccessible areas”, it says.

According to the study, overall, Guyana has a comprehensive legal framework on forest governance. The forest sector’s contribution to GDP has ranged from 3.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent in the period 1998 to 2008.

A major challenge, it says, is regulatory capture, the consequence of which is that 98 per cent of large-scale forest concessions are controlled by Asian loggers.

“Also, there is little relation between national laws, policies and procedures relating to the forest sector, and the practices of that sector”, it says.

The study says the export of unprocessed logs to Asian markets is a major issue – the national industry would benefit from increased investment in local processing facilities.

13 May 2009
Seeing REDD over forest management
The Great Beyond.
Nature’s blog comments on REDD and IIED’s report “Tenure in REDD“.

But as the IIED report suggests, including REDD credits in the carbon market could feasibly cause land disputes by making forested land profitable enough that corrupt governments take it away from forest communities. The report argues that a well-established system of “rights, rules, institutions and processes regulating the access and use of [forested lands]” will affect how REDD strategies benefit or marginalize forest communities.

“Much of the forest that’s left is because local people have kept it,” says Simon Lewis, who studies climate change in tropical African forests at Leeds University. “Formalizing their ownership over the land is a quick and cheap way of ensuring the forests continued existence.”

Tracking Trees on the Road to Copenhagen
By Evan Johnson, Ecosystem Marketplace.
A guide to the best coverage of the REDD debate at the Bonn meeting from 29 March to 8 April 2009.

In the meeting’s concluding press conference, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer made it clear that there is tremendous energy from a number of parties and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to bring REDD into the climate agreement set to be finalized in Copenhagen at the end of this year.

The deliberative progress on REDD, however, has been glacial, and the Bonn meetings proved no exception to this rule. In light of this, there is currently an attempt to establish REDD as a separate negotiating stream within the AWG-LCA.
[ . . . ]
Such a move would enable real progress on the tough issues.

In face of crises, states must ‘act together’ now, or risk cycle of poverty, despair, says Secretary-General at Sustainable Development Commission’s high-level segment
United Nations Economic and Social Council, Media report.
ECOSOC report on the meetings on Wednesday 13 May 2009 at Commission on Sustainable Development 17th Session, in New York, 4-15 May 2009. Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director-general of IUCN and Kazukhiko Takemoto, vice-minister for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan mentioned REDD.

[Julia Marton-Lefèvre] went on to highlight the proposal for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD), which IUCN believed was one of the best examples of what could be achieved by investing in nature. Stopping deforestation could curb from 10 to 20 per cent of the current global carbon emissions. An additional 117 gigatons of carbon emissions could be captures [sic] by restoring 850 million hectares of degraded forests worldwide. She added that the additional capture would also improve local livelihoods simply by using agro-forestry and other techniques. “Why we would pass up an opportunity to make such a difference, using available technology and capacity, is beyond imagination,” she said.
[ . . . ]
In mitigating climate change, [Kazukhiki Takemoto] said, it was also important to utilize biomass, which could revitalize local communities, reduce waste and achieve new frontiers in agriculture, forestry and fishing. Further, it was important to strive for compatibility between production of biofuels and a sufficient food supply by promoting both at the same time. Japan was working to produce biofuel using rice straw and thinned wood. As part of its efforts to preserve biological diversity, Japan was working to support the REDD programme into a post-2012 framework and was collecting good practices with regard to the symbiotic interaction between lifestyles and ecosystems. Japan aimed to create an international model for sustainable natural resource management that would be introduced as part of its “Satoyama Initiative” at the tenth conference of parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, in 2010. Stressing the importance of basing land use on the concept of carbon sinks, he said carbon capture and storage of farmland soil had great potential in mitigating global warming. To that end, Japan also encouraged the use of compost for carbon capture and storage.

A market in forests?
By Vera Eckert, Reuters Blogs.
A report about a meeting held in Frankfurt which was supported by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Global Canopy Programme.

Fighters for “No Climate Protection without Forest Protection – last exit Copenhagen” were in Frankfurt to promote forest conservation ahead of the global climate meeting in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

Their appeal to investment circles and government institutions in Germany’s business capital was fresh and vigorous.

14 May 2009
President plugs Guyana’s case at UN sustainable development forum
Guyana Chronicle.
Guyana’s state owned newspaper reports on Bharrat Jagdeo’s speech at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in New York.

He reminded that for two years now Guyana had indicated its willingness to place its entire rainforest under long-term protection if the international community finds the right way to include forestry within a broader climate agreement.

The President explained that Guyana is currently working with Norway and others to “trial innovative ways for the developed and developing world to work together as equals to solve the climate change problem.”

Countrywide series of consultations on avoided deforestation imminent
By Priya Nauth, Guyana Chronicle.
President Bharrat Jagdeo announced that the national consultation on REDD in Guyana will start this month.

“Iwokrama has recently been doing a fairly good job but it never realised its promise from the time that Mr. (Desmond) Hoyte (former President) give the Commonwealth this large track of land, because of the unwillingness of the international community to provide the resources.

“We had to turn around many times to intervene from our own budget, to keep Iwokrama alive and it was supposed to be an international research centre so that best practices identified in this centre could be replicated across the world,” President Jagdeo revealed.

He maintained that the intention was good when Mr. Hoyte gave the Commonwealth but the international community failed us over the many years.

Climate change and Nigeria’s forests
By Bob Dewar, The Guardian (Nigeria).
Bob Dewar is British High Commissioner in Nigeria.

An equitable deal in Copenhagen needs five elements. Firstly all countries to reduce their emissions, but developed countries must shoulder this responsibility taking on deep and binding targets. Secondly funding to adapt to the reality of climate change must be a priority. Thirdly the development of a global carbon market and other mechanisms to fund mitigation. Lord Stern’s estimate is that we will need only spend one per cent to two per cent of global GDP on mitigation, but that failure to act could cost us 20 per cent – therefore action is very sound economics as well as a moral imperative. Fourthly we need co-operation in developing low carbon technology transfer so that all countries can benefit. And finally deforestation must be included in the deal and part of the future carbon market.

15 May 2009
Investors at ‘massive’ risk from overestimates of forest CO2
By Deborah Nesbitt, Carbon Extra.
Australian carbon offset companies have been using their own software to estimate how much carbon is stored in forests, “because using their proprietary models meant they could ‘estimate more carbon’,” according to Matthew Ready of Landcare CarbonSmart.

“There’s no way we can supply by ourselves the volume of offsets that are required by Qantas, Origin, etc. What we do need is for these companies to get their heads out of the sand, stop overestimating carbon and actually start using the real data, and provide the marketplace, including the investors, with the truth,” Ready said.

Better dead than REDD?
Editorial, Kaieteur News.
Guyana illustrates how REDD can create incentives to accelerate deforestation.

The fly in the ointment has always been that our baseline deforestation is very, very low. Statistics produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation for Guyana indicates “no net loss of forest cover between 1990 and 2005.”

The slowdown of activity in the forestry sector will ensure that there will be no dramatic change in the near future and makes moot the other hurdle the model raises: the need to prove that any reduction in deforestation is “additional” to business as usual.

We believe that we should proceed full steam ahead with the exploitation of our forestry resources. In addition to placing our future development more firmly in our own hands, it will ironically make our arguments for REDD even stronger.

“The Burning Season” Calls for Action to Save Forests
By Susanna Murley, Blog.
A review of “The Burning Season“, a film about setting up the Ulu Masen project in Aceh in Indonesia.

The film follows a farmer, Achmadi, who sets fire to his land to clear it for palm oil production. As Henkel relates, “Achmadi needed the income to feed his family and put his daughter through school. He was unaware that his fires were contributing to global carbon emissions.”

Under REDD, that farmer could make money as the custodian of the forest through offsetting the emissions coming from the burning of fossil fuels elsewhere. Sounds simple, right? But the process is complicated by landrights issues, usufruct systems (relating to the right to use and derive profit, or benefit from property that belongs to another person), scientific uncertainties, even the weather—but that doesn’t change the essential problem this system seeks to solve: that a substantial amount of global warming emissions come from deforestation.

Trans-boundary Rainforest Park will be a symbol of peace and stability
Birdlife International, Press release.
The trans-boundary Peace Park links forest reserves in Sierra Leone and Liberia and aims to protect one of the largest remaining areas of intact forest in the Upper Guinea Area of West Africa.

[The forests] are also internationally important for carbon sequestration. Both Governments have expressed interest in carbon trading and in the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) process. The Peace Park will provide the potential to raise tens of millions of dollars over forthcoming decades, ensuring sustained funding for protected area management and community development.

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  1. Interesting comments on Iwokrama above. Of course, at the time, the project was presented as a new ‘model’ for self-sustaining rainforest conservation, research and forest management. So it’s interesting that the Guyanese government is now complaining that the reason the project never really worked properly was because the international funds didn’t keep flowing in – confirming that, as many thought at the time, it was just another White Elephant project, doomed like most other such projects to collapse when the aid runs out.

    Or, in this case, doomed to be sold off to foreign carbon speculators (London-based Canopy Capital) by the President, under terms that have never been revealed to the Guyanese people. Quite what the Canopy Capitalists have bought, though – given that half the Iwokrama area is having the life logged out of it – is anybody’s guess.

    What goes around, comes around?