There’s a lot of talk about REDD at the United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, but what does this concept of conserving forests to fight climate change really mean?
One working definition used by The Nature Conservancy:
REDD+ is an innovative effort based on the idea of placing a value on the critical role that forests play in regulating the earth’s climate.
The concept involves reversing the trends of forest destruction by providing incentives to local people, governments, and industry to change their practices. It brings money and other resources to develop alternatives to cutting trees and clearing land for other uses.
In 2005, REDD was proposed by developing countries, led by the Coalition of Rainforest Nations, because they saw reducing deforestation as one of the key ways they could contribute to solving climate change, while supporting the sustainability of their economies and environment.
The acronym REDD originally stood for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation in Developing Countries, perhaps a more explanatory name. More recently, the term was updated to “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation,” to reflect the damage and carbon emissions that can occur in forests even when they are not clear-cut.
With a “plus,” added in 2007, the concept has been further broadened to REDD+, which refers to numerous potential strategies that help forests and the climate, including low-impact logging, tree planting and conservation.
Sarene Marshall, climate change program director at The Nature Conservancy, offers a useful list of what REDD is not:
- REDD is not about locking up forests and kicking people out.
- REDD is not about paying people to do nothing.
- REDD is not a permanent flow of money. It must be used to help develop alternative ways for communities to use their land and grow their economies, jobs and well-being.
- REDD is not quick money for conservation programs.
To succeed, REDD must be part of the larger development agenda – it needs to be embedded in broader decisions about balancing land use, natural resources and economic needs. Part of the debate in Cancun concerns the details of how a fair and transparent REDD system should be structured and operated.
Through its many years of experience working with forest communities around the world, The Nature Conservancy has developed some useful ground rules for thinking about and planning for REDD.
- A goal, which must be supported by a financing system, that aims to improve land use in developing countries.
- About investing in low-carbon economic growth opportunities that take the health and natural benefits of forests into consideration.
- An outcome that relies on a range of strategies and activities, including: “working lands” that produce fuel, food and fiber, conservation areas like parks and preserves, and communal lands owned and managed by traditional peoples.
- A result that requires the joint, sustained effort of governments, communities, NGOs and industry.
- A way of helping solve climate change, while simultaneously enabling sustainable economic development and biodiversity conservation.
Global warming affects all of us, but those who live in forests are directly dependent on them as sources of food, water and livelihoods, which are often vulnerable to climate change. Any successful REDD initiative will have to include the active consent and participation of indigenous peoples and local communities, and environmental safeguards so the goal of lowering carbon emissions does not result in unintended negative consequences.
At the current rate of destruction, tropical forests in the developing world will virtually disappear within 100 years, according to the Tropical Rain Forest Information Center.
Urgent action is needed to alter the path of climate change by protecting forests, and all they provide for people and the planet. The vision of REDD outlined above offers multiple benefits for local communities and an immediate strategy for reducing climate-changing emissions from forest clearing.
Lisa Hayden is climate change writer for The Nature Conservancy
Trackback from your site.