REDD – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

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Earth Journalism Network,

INTRODUCTION
As plants grow, they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into biomass.

This means that forests can store carbon for a long time and prevent it from reaching the atmosphere where it can trap heat and contribute to climate change.

But when forests are burnt or cleared the carbon dioxide is released. Globally, deforestation causes 15-20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

One proposal for reducing this threat is REDD (reduced emissions from deforestation and (forest) degradation in developing countries.

REDD would involve large amounts of money flowing from developed to developing nations to compensate them for keeping their forests intact, because of the global environmental benefits that would bring.

Under a REDD scheme, countries that reduce deforestation could gain credits for reduced emissions.

These credits could be sold on international carbon markets, compensated through a fund paid developed nations or, as looks most likely, paid for using a combination of both approaches.

REDD is likely to be a key component of the global strategy for addressing climate change that governments are negotiating under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In 2007, the UN negotiations made their first formal reference both REDD and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, which are collectively termed REDD+.

REDD/REDD+ have raised major concerns among some groups who fear that they could lead to big problems for indigenous people, other forest-dependent communities, and biodiversity.

While REDD+ could bring many additional benefits such as conserving biodiversity and supporting livelihoods, there are also risks that REDD could lead to land grabs, commercial logging on tribal lands, and the conversion of biodiverse natural forests into plantations.

POTENTIAL PROBLEMS
For REDD to work countries will need to monitor the state of forests and the volumes of carbon either being emitted or stored.

This will require historical data, satellite imagery and through direct measurement of trees, as well as an international system for reporting and verifying the data.

However, there is no agreed methodology for measuring carbon and even if there was few forest nations have the resources needed to make such measurements effectively.

There are also risks that preventing deforestation in one place could just lead to more deforestation somewhere else (known as leakage, see Case Study).

REDD money that flows to forest nations could be captured by elites or corrupt officials, and could lead to local communities being forced out of forest areas they depend on for their livelihoods.

There are also concerns that REDD could flood the market with carbon credits and lead to a crash in the price of carbon that creates a disincentive for other activities – such as renewable energy projects – that could also limit climate change.

REPORTING TIPS
In 2009, the Climate Change Media Partnership has produced, a journalist’s guide to the role of forests in combating global climate change, called Reporting REDD, and a video called What’s a Forest Worth.

These resources are both rich in reporting tips and story ideas. Another source of inspiration — and pitfalls to avoid — is this CIFOR report [PDF] about how the Indonesian media has reported on REDD.

To track REDD developments, journalists will need to follow the negotiations under the UNFCCC, where there are many different views about how REDD could and should work.

The Global Canopy Programme’s Little REDD Book summarizes more than 30 proposals that have been made by different countries, nongovernmental groups and others.

It is available online in English, French, Bahasa Indonesia, Portuguese and Spanish and a further translation is planned into simplified mandarin.

The GCP has also helped to set up The REDD Desk, an online collaborative platform for sharing information about all aspects of REDD.

Other good nongovernmental sources include Global Witness, the Ecosystems Climate Alliance and REDD Monitor, which takes a critical view of REDD and its potential problems.

Intergovernmental sources include UN-REDD, and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.

CASE STUDY – REDD in Bolivia
The Nature Conservancy’s Noel Kempff Climate Action Project in Bolivia has doubled the size of an existing national park to more than 800,000 hectares and prevented emissions of more than a million tons of carbon dioxide.

The US$10 million project is backed by major corporate sponsors include companies that derive their profits from fossil fuels. These companies could one day use the carbon credits from the project to offset their emissions, or could sell them on the international carbon market.

Critics of the project say, however, that the logging prevented in the forest has just moved elsewhere and UN data shows that the overall rate of deforestation in Bolivia has increased. The result is more greenhouse gas emissions and more climate change, despite the investment in reduced deforestation.

Examples like this have led to a big disagreement in UN negotiations about whether REDD can be implemented only on a national level, or whether local projects could benefit.

FURTHER READING
Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development – REDD resources
Guardian (UK) – Will the UN’s forest protection dream turn into a nightmare?
CIFOR – Forests and Climate Change