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Are we ready for REDD?

Tan Copsey

Readinch

Climate-change negotiators in Copenhagen would be wise to pay attention to some of the challenges highlighted by early experiments using market mechanisms to avoid deforestation, writes Tan Copsey.

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An agreement to curb deforestation is expected to be one of the major outcomes of this year’s global climate-change negotiations in Copenhagen. There is an extensive, often theoretical, debate about the merits of using market mechanisms to slow deforestation. But ahead of the negotiations in December, practical problems with projects aimed at curbing deforestation in Papua New Guinea, Guyana, Panama and Uganda point to a rocky road ahead for REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

If REDD is to work anywhere, it needs to work in Papua New Guinea. The country has the world’s third-largest area of rain forest, which is being chopped down at an alarming rate. Papua New Guinea’s special envoy for environment and climate change, Kevin Conrad -- who also heads the Coalition for Rainforest Nations -- helped place deforestation at the heart of global climate negotiations. But ahead of Copenhagen, he described how “carbon cowboys” have descended on Papua New Guinea and “tried to sign up voluntary deals with our landowning people using misinformation”.

Papua New Guinea, Conrad said, is trying to prepare for REDD, “but it is not easy in a third world country”. In early July, Theo Yasause, the director of Papua New Guinea’s Office of Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (OCCES), was suspended pending an investigation, after reports that he had issued illegal carbon credits. Although a voluntary market in carbon credits from avoided deforestation exists, national governments cannot issue credits.

A number of foreign carbon-trading companies have been implicated in the illegal credits scandal. Dave Sag, founder of Carbon Planet, an Australian company that operates in Papua New Guinea, flatly denies allegations that his own company might have received illegal carbon credits and argues that such credits would be impossible to sell. “If ultimately the end-buyer does a bit of due diligence and realises that these supposed REDD credits haven’t been properly registered or that there has been some black money which has changed hands somewhere, they’re not going to do it,” Sag said. “And if they did find out two years down the track that they’d been duped, they’d sue everyone.”

He went on to describe the array of challenges his company negotiated while trying to make money from REDD in Papua New Guinea. “We have invested $1.2 million [Australian dollars, or nearly US$1 million] in Papua New Guinea,” Sag said, “but we haven’t given it to the government. We’ve spent money on everything from plane fares to taxis to local translators to consultants to illustrators. Right now, we also employ a lot of very hard-core scientists who go out into the jungle. These are not armchair scientists; these are real people doing real work, and it is expensive and it is complicated.” Sag is determined to press ahead with REDD, and he believes that the positive benefits associated with preserving a rain forest justify the challenge. “I can’t overemphasise the complexity of REDD projects,” he added. “They really are difficult, but the outcomes are huge.”

Papua New Guinea is not the only country rushing to be ready for an agreement on REDD. In late June, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility gave the go-ahead to projects in Guyana and Panama. To obtain REDD funding under World Bank rules, a country must develop strategies to reduce deforestation, a system for monitoring, reporting and verifying emissions reductions, and a reference scenario that accounts for historic and projected future deforestation rates.

The bank’s own technical advisory panel expressed concerns about “significant weaknesses” in the plans of Guyana and Panama and suggested that “analysis of the drivers of deforestation was incomplete and poorly aligned with their proposed strategies”. The Bank Information Center reported that the plans were allowed to proceed in part because of political pressure to demonstrate “real on-the-ground advances ahead of Copenhagen”.

Concerns also have been raised about the level to which indigenous people have been involved in the process. At a recent conference on forests, governance and climate change, Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme detailed how Amerindians indigenous to Guyana had been marginalised from the REDD planning process.

Christian Dannecker, a forestry expert with South Pole Carbon Asset Management, has worked on avoided deforestation projects in both Papua New Guinea and across Latin America. He expressed concern about “very low levels of information about how the carbon market works” in some developing countries. Many people, he said, “think that this has something to do with oxygen production and not CO2 capture, and that you can be paid for a forest, somewhere in the woods, that is not threatened. So I get lots of proposals for REDD projects that consist of actively doing nothing.”

REDD projects, Dannecker says, are often difficult, time consuming and hard to explain to local people. From a commercial perspective, this means “you have to make sure that you pick good projects to get involved in, especially if you invest your own money”.

More seriously, poorly designed or rushed REDD schemes could devastate and destabilise developing countries. Chris Lang of REDD-Monitor described his own experience investigating a voluntary project set-up by a Dutch organisation called the FACE Foundation, at Mount Elgon in Uganda. Despite apparently good intentions, disputes over land rights meant that instead of reducing emissions, investment in reforestation and avoiding deforestation exacerbated an existing conflict and led to violence.

“There was a major conflict going on that simply wasn’t apparent from the information that the companies involved were giving out,” Lang said. “When I got there, villagers told me that forest rangers were going around shooting at them. One of the villagers showed me a handful of bullet shells. Shortly after I was there, the villagers cut down half a million trees because the trees had been planted on what they considered to be their land. Due diligence in this case had a lot more to do with denial than actually looking at the reality of what was happening on the ground.”

Lang is sceptical about the benefits of REDD and believes that the most obvious way of minimising these sort of mistakes is to “prevent trade in forest carbon” outright. But he notes that “if we’re going to stop deforestation, we have to do it quite quickly”.

Negotiators finalising a deal on REDD in Copenhagen would be wise to pay attention to some of the challenges highlighted by these early experiments using markets to avoid deforestation. If there is an international agreement to proceed with markets (as seems likely), a cautious, scientifically rigorous, approach is called for, with funding for public-information campaigns, thorough on-the-ground monitoring and clear guidelines on indigenous people’s rights.

Otherwise, further misunderstandings, fraud and even violent conflict could seriously undermine trust between the developed and developing world. Beyond this, there are other serious unanswered questions about REDD. Will the programme actually slow deforestation or will loggers just move to areas not covered by the scheme? Will REDD credits flood carbon markets and drive down prices? To what extent can large emitting nations be allowed to use credits as a substitute for internal efforts to reduce emissions?

It is also clear that simply throwing money at deforestation will not solve the problem. There is an obvious need for capacity building in developing countries. Kevin Conrad suggests that “only once we set up an infrastructure that can accept markets can you bring in market forces -- and when you do that it is clear that unless the money goes to those people who are causing deforestation or have the ability to stop deforestation, it will fail”.

But he also cautioned that “Papua New Guinea is the first of many upcoming instances” of irregularities associated with REDD and that “whenever there is prospective of oncoming wealth, there is a tendency for the small to become overrun by the strong”.


Tan Copsey is development manager of chinadialogue


Homepage image by Greenpeace Esperanza

 

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政府要及早进入角色

REDD的初衷,无疑是非常好的。但是,如果完全借助市场机制进行此项目,REDD将变成赚钱机器。商人在利益和道德之间,极有可能选择前者。在政府还没有头绪之前,个别的企业入主此项产业未尝不可,但是政府要及早的进入角色,制定相关政策,保障项目进行的同时,又为当地百姓找到出路。

Government should go into the role as soon as possible.

It is undoubted that REDD's original purpose is positive.However,if this project was running completely with the market mechanism,REDD would turn out to be a Money-making machine.Facing
with the choice between profit and morality, more often than not,businessmen may choose the former.Before the government gets clear,a few comepanies'taking hold of this project is not a bad idea.Yet,government should go into the role as soon as possible, developing relevant policies to ensure the running of project as well as finding the way out for local people.

Translated by Liu Jingya


埃尔贡山的例子

从REDD的原则出发,为了保护有限的森林资源,那些长期以来以森林为生的当地人的利益将会受损,这就要求REDD计划的收益分配要给予当地民众公平的补偿。要不然,FACE基金在埃尔贡山的失败案例还将重演。

The example of Mount Elgon

According to the REDD principle,in order to protect the limited forest resources, the profit of local people who have lived off of those forests must be greatly reduced. This requires REDD projects to distribute their profit fairly to the local people as a compensation. If not, the failed case of FACE fund in Mount Elgon will be repeated.

Translated by Liu Jingya


只是热带雨林吗?

有一个疑问:REDD项目是仅限于在热带雨林国家实施吗?可否就全球范围内REDD项目的大致现状做个介绍?

Only the tropical rain forest?

There is a question: Is REDD's projetc carried out only in countreis that have tropical rain forest?Is it possible that you can make a statement about global general situation of REDD's project?

Translated by Liu Jingya


怀疑商人在REDD中的角色

同CDM一样,REDD也是将碳排放的楔子与利益联系在了一起。然而,如同第一个评论所说,REDD最后可能沦为赚钱机器,这样并不好。我认为应该在这些参加REDD的国家的民众中多进行宣传,让他们知道碳减排的意义所在,这样才有可能会改变目前只有少数人推动减排的困境。

Suspect the role of the REDD businessmen

Like CDM, [REDD] also mixes up profits with the advantage gained from carbon emissions leveraging. However, as mentioned in the first comment, [REDD] may ultimately be reduced to a money-making machine. This is not good. I think there should be more publicity within those countries participating in [REDD], letting the people know the meaning of carbon emission reduction. This way, it might be possible to change the current situation where only a minority is pushing for carbon emissions reduction.

Translated by Somui Cheung


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