Cost of Conserving the Forest, Curbing Emission

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EnviroNews, Nigeria

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) implies a set of steps designed to use market and financial incentives in order to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) from deforestation and forest degradation. Put simply, it entails compensating communities to conserve their forest resources. Its objective is to curb GHG emission, based on the notion that plants act as a carbon sink by absorbing carbon dioxide (a GHG) to prepare their food and emit oxygen as waste product.

While deforestation is the permanent removal of forests and withdrawal of land from forest use, forest degradation refers to negative changes in the forest area that limit its production capacity.

Development of a REDD mechanism has progressed significantly since 1995 with the set up of a United Nations (UN) programme and various capacity building and research activities. Projects are also being trialled through national government programmes and the private sector. REDD+ is playing a playing a major role in a post-2012 international climate agreement, even though many challenges are still to be addressed.

REDD is sometimes presented as an “offset” scheme of the carbon markets and, thus, would produce carbon credits. Carbon offsets are “emissions-saving projects or programmes” that in theory would “compensate” for the polluters’ emissions. The “carbon credits” generated by these projects could then be used by industrialised governments and corporations to meet their targets and/or to be traded within the carbon markets.

REDD activities are undertaken by national and international organisations support developing countries engaged in the process. The World Banks’ Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), the UN-REDD Programme, and Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative are such examples.

Observers believe that the genuine actors of REDD are the populations whose livelihoods derive from forests. Indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities, they add, are the frontliners of REDD, and the success of REDD activities will largely depend on their engagement.

At the 7th UN-REDD Policy Board meeting held in October 2011 in Berlin, Germany, Nigeria’s National Programme Document (NPD) on REDD+ Readiness was approved with a funding allocation of $4 million. This was followed by a series of events – a capacity building and awareness programme (or REDD+ University) and a stakeholder-wide reassessment of the plan (Local Project Appraisal Committee (LPAC) as well as Technical Review meetings) – that set the stage for the execution process.

Nigeria REDD officials are likewise exploring other REDD+ financing windows, such as the FCPF, where the country intends to raise about $3.6 million.

The “+” in REDD implies that it is more than just avoiding deforestation. Indeed, it is tied to measurable and verifiable reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as well as sustainable management of forests, conservation of forest carbon stocks and enhancement of carbon stocks.

This is because a REDD strategy need not refer solely to the establishment of national parks or protected areas; by the careful design of rules and guidelines, REDD could include land use practices such as shifting cultivation by indigenous communities and reduced-impact-logging, provided sustainable rotation and harvesting cycles can be demonstrated. Some argue that this is opening the door to logging operations in primary forests, displacement of local populations for “conservation” and increase of tree plantations.

According to some critics, REDD+ is another extension of green capitalism, subjecting the forests and its inhabitants to new ways of expropriation and enclosure at the hands of polluting companies and market speculators.

Nigerian environment activist, Nnimmo Bassey, insists that REDD+ is not designed to stop deforestation.

“They at best defer deforestation. Even if the carbon stocks in the trees are adequately computed and credits are issued for them, the trees do not live forever, and so the carbon would be released one day. The false base of market solutions, including cap and trade measures…and now REDD were laid in Kyoto and continue to drag the world in the wrong trajectory. We do not need to keep on that track. Nigeria and other nations with forests ought to be ready to allocate funds for adequate management/protection of our forests instead of depending on schemes that simply allow polluters to keep polluting while ‘paying’ for their sins in forests in ‘poor’ countries,” says Bassey, who headed the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (FoEN) for 20 years.

He adds: “We should not forget that REDD, as generally is the unfortunate case with the FAO and the UN system, accepts plantations as forests. Clever scientists may keep devising more false solutions to climate change, the fundamental cause that needs to be tackled remains mankind’s dependence on fossil fuels coupled with the notion of unending growth.”