Friday, September 30, 2011

Reducing Deforestation: if not REDD, then what?

A twitter conversation pushes me to look up what I wrote on REDD. I found this buried in a long screed on Copenhagen, so I have pasted it here because it is important. In liking REDD, I am being a bit heretical it seems. I am prepared to reject REDD the moment someone comes up with a better idea. 

And before you start, neither leaving it to the free market, nor smashing the state come into the category of  better ideas.

REDD - Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, is the proposal on the table.

There are already institutions set up to administer this scheme, among them the UN-REDD.

The logic of REDD is sound:

1. The forests must be preserved

2. Poor countries with large forests are at risk of selling the forests for logging.

3. If they are not to profit from logging, they must receive compensation.

4. Companies or countries supplying compensation that effectively preserves the forests are effectively reducing the amount of CO2 that would have been added to the atmosphere.

Verification of REDD can be ensured both by high technology (satellite surveillance) and traditional methods (granting sovereignty to forest dwellers for the care of their lands). The Global Greens should table this latter approach.

Note that protection of forests does not preclude the use and marketing of forest products, including timber. Extraction of a tree from a forest, and use of its timber in or high value wood artefacts is a form of carbon storage, and stimulates carbon uptake because new trees will spring up in the area previously shaded by the harvested tree. Individual tree harvesting can be sustainable; clear felling is not.

The REDD scheme has many detractors, but critics need to provide a feasible alternative. These criticisms from Wikipedia:

* The availability of a large supply of potentially cheap carbon 
credits could provide an avenue for companies in the developed 
world to simply purchase REDD credits without providing meaningful 
emission reductions at home.

A: Since we are looking at a global problem, then CO2 emissions foregone are effective, even if carried out in a different part of the globe. The offsetting company will still be incentivised to reduce its emissions in order to reduce its payments.

* Large number of carbon credits could swamp developing carbon 
markets...but could also facilitate ambitious emissions targets in 
a post-Kyoto agreement.

A: This is a problem to be managed by restricting the issue of carbon credits. The ETS has clearly been over-issuing and therefore undervaluing the credits, and this can be addressed my issuing less.

* Putting a commercial value on forests neglects the spiritual value they hold for Indigenous Peoples and local communities. 

A: Illogical. The forests are being conserved by putting a protective monetary value on them.

* There is no consensus on a definition for forest degradation. 

A: Ecologists can create an effective index of measurement.

* Fair distribution of REDD benefits will not be achieved without a
prior reform in forest governance and more secure tenure systems
in many countries.

A: Why does it have to be prior? This is to set the cart before the horse. The reforms will flow from the proper valuation of the forests.

I am aware that these views are contentious in our circles, but the key thing for the critics of REDD is to set out a feasible alternative, and of this, so far, I have seen nothing.

PS: At the same time, we should be pressing for reafforestation.

Reafforestation of earth’s desert areas could absorb 50 years’ worth of USA emissions. Increasing the density of wooded areas in the rest of the world could absorb a similar amount. There are climatic implications for full reafforestation of the deserts, but the project can start at the coasts, while the implications are worked out.

Afforestation must begin in coastal areas and extend inland from there, to utilise the moist air coming off the sea.

This reforestation effort must be ecologically diverse, and carried out by and for the benefit of local communities.

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