Good COP, Bad COP

REDD – the terms for an agreement
by -- December 11th, 2009

Reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) are one of the signature initiatives of the Copenhagen process. This entry outlines the issue, terms for agreement and issues to resolve.

One of the primary goals of the Copenhagen process is to include reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) into the global climate agreement.  Deforestation currently accounts for about 12-17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same as the global transportation sector.  Forest emissions occur primarily in the tropics, where the pace of land-clearing exceeds forest regrowth.  Counting deforestation emissions, Brazil and Indonesia are, respectively, the 3’rd  and 6’th largest emitters of greenhouse gases globally.

REDD was left out of the Kyoto Protocol for a variety of reasons, ranging from the perceived difficulty in measuring forest carbon stocks and emissions to concerns about national sovereignty.  But as tropical forests continue to be cleared at the rate of 13 million hectares per year, roughly the size of the U.S. state of Alabama, the international community has come to realize that REDD is one of the more cost-effective mitigation options globally, that reversing this trend is critical to resolving the climate problem and protecting the whole host of ecosystem services that forests provide.  As such, REDD became a critical component of the Bali Action Plan and much hope is placed on forging an agreement in Copenhagen.

The outlines of an agreement are as follows

–  Developing countries would not be forced to reduce forest emissions, but would receive compensation for doing so from developed countries

–  The program would occur in phases.

  • Initial payments would support capacity-building for planning, policy implementation, development of national baselines, and monitoring systems. This would come from government payments
  • Eventually compensation for observed reductions below the baseline could come either from a carbon market, government-supplied funds, or both

–   The emissions “sector” of interest is likely to include deforestation, degradation, and the maintenance and enhancement of forest carbon stocks, possibly to include all changes in forest carbon including afforestation and reforestation.  Some parties are calling for inclusion of agriculture as well. Combining forest and agricultural sources, the land sector accounts for almost 30 percent of global emissions.

–  Protections put in place for governance, social, and environmental goals

But there are still many areas to work out, including

  • How much money will developed countries commit to these efforts?
  • Will developing countries with strong emerging economies agree to finance some of their own reductions as nationally appropriate mitigation actions?
  • What role will the global carbon market be allowed to play in paying for realized emission reductions and will these reductions substitute for or be supplemental to developed country reductions?
  • What specific safeguards will be put in place to protect the rights of indigenous people who depend on the forests for their livelihood, to ensure that the financing and distribution of funds is transparent and conforms with international standards of transparency, and to protect biodiversity and other important ecosystem values produced by forests?

These issues will not be easy to resolve, but there is a general sense that a forest agreement under the auspices of REDD is among the more likely positive outcomes in Copenhagen.

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