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REDD, carbon trading and addressing illegal logging – six presentations from FERN

REDD, carbon trading and addressing illegal loggingIn March 2013, the European Union’s Timber Regulation comes into force. After years of NGO campaigns, endless discussions, conferences and workshops it will become illegal to sell illegally sourced timber in the EU.

This is an important breakthrough. The EU has gone further than the US, which in 2008 passed an amendment to the Lacey Act, that made the sale of illegally sourced timber illegal in the US. The EU has set up a series of Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with countries on reforms to forest governance – including better recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities. The VPAs are the centrepiece of the EU Action Plan on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT), published in May 2003. The EU Council set the following goal when it adopted FLEGT:

VPAs should strengthen land tenure and access rights specifically for marginalized rural communities and indigenous peoples; strengthen effective participation of all stakeholders, notably non-state actors and indigenous peoples in policy making and implementation; increase transparency; reduce corruption…

Recently, FERN released a report titled “Forest Stands: How new EU trade laws help countries protect both forests and peoples”. Written by Fred Pearce, a UK-based journalist, it is a well written account of the importance of the EU measures to address illegal logging. Pearce acknowledges that the process is not perfect and that challenges remain. Nevertheless, “Most negotiations for VPAs have gone well,” he writes.

Exporters welcome the certainty it gives them in the face of the new EU member states’ border regimes. NGOs have welcomed the way that most agreements legally enshrine both the rights of civil society to be involved in framing forest policy and law, and the rights of forest communities to a say when and under what conditions logging concessions are handed out. The negotiations have proved empowering for many civil society organizations and community representatives in an area of national policy too often dominated by the violent, the corrupt and the illegal.

Clearly there are lessons to be learned for REDD from the EU’s attempts to address illegal logging. FERN recently produced a series of six presentations exploring the issues behind REDD and carbon trading and what lessons might be learned from the FLEGT process:

REDD, FLEGT and carbon trading – a six part training course

It is not that easy to get to grips with Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) or carbon trading without some prior knowledge; the fairly complex ideas are usually shrouded in even more complex technical language and jargon. This series of six training presentations is designed to give an accessible overview to some of the key concepts behind international discussions on carbon trading, REDD and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). Although each presentation can be viewed alone, the entire course should give anyone a good overall understanding of the issues, and it is hoped that it will be particularly useful for community groups and local NGOs faced with engaging in REDD or forest governance schemes. The course has been translated into French and Spanish.
1. What is Climate Change?
The first part of the course, ‘What is climate change?’ sets out the problem that REDD and carbon trading are supposed to address. It explains the role of carbon and fossil fuel emissions in climate change, making it clear that reducing deforestation will not solve the problems.

2. What is REDD?
Having debunked the idea that avoiding deforestation will solve climate change, the second presentation begins by highlighting the very important benefits that will come from tackling rampant deforestation. The major international proposal to tackle deforestation is REDD, and this module covers the fundamental problems identified with the REDD right from the start. We also introduce REDD+, touching on the need for safeguards to protect communities.

3. What is Carbon Trading?
The concept of Cap and Trade as a means to efficiently reduce carbon emissions is explored here, with a nod to the EU Emissions Trading System as the only up and running cap and trade scheme. Carbon offsets are introduced, highlighting some of the key difficulties and making it clear that offsets are, at best, benign and at worst undermine the entire cap and trade system. Forest carbon offsets are picked out as particularly problematic.

4. Forests and Carbon Trading
Module four takes a more detailed look at the role of forests in climate change mitigation activities. Addressing one of the major issues within REDD – who is going to pay for it – this module draws together information from the previous two presentations to show that REDD is intimately tied up with carbon trading. With this in mind, we explore some of the key problems encountered by the existing voluntary carbon market.

5. REDD+ and communities
Beginning with clarification on what is generally meant by rightsholders and stakeholders, this section focuses on the role of communities in tackling deforestation. Key concepts including good governance and free prior informed consent (FPIC) are introduced as necessary factors in any attempt to tackle deforestation.

6. Lessons from FLEGT for REDD
The final section of this course introduces the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements. This programme to improve forest governance has some real lessons to offer any future REDD scheme, in that it aims to tackle the key causes of deforestation by involving stakeholders, encouraging transparency and building the capacity of local communities. We conclude with a reminder that neither REDD nor FLEGT address the single most important factor in deforestation – demand for forest and agricultural products. This final module also includes a recap of the entire course.


Full disclosure: REDD-Monitor has received funding from FERN. Click here for all of REDD-Monitor’s funding sources.

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  1. The main lesson for REDD from FLEGT seems to be that tropical forest country governments are probably more likely to respond with the necessary policy reforms to a trade ‘stick’ rather than an aid ‘carrot’.

    When there are FLEGT-like schemes for palm oil, soya, beef and so on, then perhaps we will see some real progress in reducing deforestation in the tropics.

    The amount of donor aid money which has already been wasted on useless market-orientated REDD programmes, especially through the World Bank, would probably have paid for the development of such scheme several times over.

    Have you had a reply from Nicholas Stern yet, Chris?

  2. Fantastic animated presentations from FERN, congratulations to those involved. I wonder, however, if they will be simple enough for the ‘superbrains’ at McKinsey/PWC/World Bank to understand?

  3. @A Witness (#1) – Thanks. Still no reply from Nicholas Stern… I’ve just sent him the following reminder:

    From: Chris Lang
    Date: 30 October 2012 10:48
    Subject: Re: A few questions from
    To: Nicholas Stern

    Dear Nicholas Stern,

    As I have not received an answer to these questions, I am resending them. I look forward to your response.

    For your information, I posted the questions and a review of your book “The Global Deal” by Larry Lohmann on REDD-Monitor:

    I would be happy to post your response in full as a new post on REDD-Monitor. I look forward to hearing from you.

    Regards, Chris Lang