Deforestation and Forest Degradation – REDD+
Forests play a pivotal role in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Including the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation in the climate change agreement can also improve the opportunities of developing countries to protect biodiversity and reduce poverty.
Forests play a significant role in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Greenhouse gases resulting from deforestation account for an estimated 20 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The forest sector, mainly due to deforestation and forest degradation, is the second greatest source of GHG emissions exceeding, for example, the emissions caused by the transport sector. In the context of climate change mitigation, forests act as carbon sinks that absorb carbon dioxide, thereby reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations.
Reducing deforestation and forest degradation also create many other benefits, such as the protection of water reserves and biodiversity and the prevention of soil erosion. In addition, more than one billion people – most of them living in developing countries – depend either directly or indirectly on forests as their source of income. Including the reduction of deforestation and forest degradation in the climate change agreement can also improve the opportunities of developing countries to protect biodiversity and alleviate poverty.
The drivers for deforestation are manifold. Contributing factors include the pressure in developing countries to attain economic growth, the spreading of agriculture and animal husbandry to forest areas, lack of monitoring, unclear land ownership, corruption and illegal logging, and forest fires. It has been decided in the UNFCCC negotiations (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) that a specific forest instrument needs to be established. The instrument, known as REDD+ (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries), covers a wide range of activities. The intention is to assess the application and effectiveness of the REDD+ mechanism by means of a monitoring system to be agreed upon internationally.
The implementation and monitoring of REDD+ include specific implementation principles and safeguards concerning, for instance, biodiversity and the rights of indigenous peoples dependent on forests. Developing countries would be remunerated for the emission reductions achieved through actions taken to mitigate deforestation and forest degradation, and to increase carbon sequestration by forests. Agreement on the establishment of the REDD+ mechanism was reached at the climate conference in Cancun in 2010.
In the Conference of the Parties in Durban, several advancements related to the REDD+ mechanism were achieved. For instance, the Cancun decisions on national REDD+ strategies were confirmed. In order to ensure the viability and sustainability of the implementation of the mechanism, the efficiency and effectiveness of the actions taken will be measured against set reference level. Thus, a reliable measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) system is needed.
As the climate change affects the forests, it also affects the livelihoods, food security and health of people dependent on forests, as well as the realization of goals pertaining to abatement of poverty. Since forests are the largest land ecosystem, the protection and strengthening of the biological diversity in forests is an important part of climate actions.
The intention is that the costs incurred in drafting REDD+ programmes, enhancing readiness, and initial implementation would be covered mostly by development cooperation funds. The goal over a longer term is to establish a market-driven financing mechanism supported by public funds.
Participants in the Copenhagen Climate Conference reached agreement on the Copenhagen Accord where, among other things, some industrialized countries agreed to support developing countries in their efforts to reduce deforestation, the support amounting to USD 3.5 billion.
Alongside the negotiations, at the initiative of France and Norway, a temporary REDD+ Partnership was established. More than 70 countries have joined this partnership, which aims at rapid launching of REDD+ efforts already in the period 2010–2012.