Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation

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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) refers to a strategy adopted as a part of the Bali Road Map at the December 2007 talks on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to avoid deforestation in developing countries. European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas called the adoption of REDD "one of the substantial achievements" of the Bali conference. [1]

Slowing deforestation is key to addressing climate change, as "tropical deforestation ... currently accounts for about 20 percent of heat-trapping gas emissions worldwide." Plants each year absorb about 8% of the world's atmospheric carbon - minimizing deforestation can mitigate GHG emissions and increase annual CO2 absorption.[2]


The concept of REDD was first "raised by Papua New Guinea with the support from the Coalition of Rainforest Nations" at the UNFCCC meeting in Montreal in 2005. [3]

REDD is widely supported, as forests make a significant contribution to trapping carbon and various studies indicate that "relatively modest funding can greatly reduce deforestation's contribution to dangerous climate change." [4]

In July 2008, the G8 countries issued a statement in support of REDD, "encourag[ing] actions ... including the development of an international forest monitoring network building on existing initiatives." [5] Taking note of the G8 statement, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said that its next Global Forest Resources Assessment, due out in 2010, would inform REDD efforts by providing "comprehensive data ... on the state of the world's forests." [6]



The need to protect biodiversity and ensure that REDD projects do not have "unintended negative impacts on some ecosystems" was stressed by researchers at the United Nations Environment Program World Conservation Monitoring Center, in an article published in the journal Science. "If forests are protected through REDD without addressing the underlying causes of forest clearance, such as increasing demand for food, then some clearance of natural ecosystems will simply shift to other areas and different habitats will be destroyed," wrote Dr. Lera Miles. [7]

In their briefing paper for the Accra climate talks, the environmental group Friends of the Earth stressed that any REDD mechanism must be "fully and explicitly in line with the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Expanded Program of Work on Forest Biodiversity and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples." Otherwise, REDD "could be used to fund the expansion of plantations, even though they store, at best, only 20% of the carbon and a fraction of the biodiversity that old growth forests have." [8]

Indigenous rights

The Indigenous Environment Network and other indigenous groups issued a condemnation of REDD, saying it "will increase the violation of our rights to our lands, territories and resources; cause forced evictions; prevent access and threaten indigenous agriculture practices; destroy biodiversity, cultural diversity, traditional livelihoods and knowledge systems; and cause social conflicts. Under REDD, States and carbon traders will take more control over our forests." [9]

An international carbon market may increase the monetary value of forest land and lead to the "social dislocation and violent eviction" of indigenous communities living in forested areas, warned Friends of the Earth. [8]

In April 2008, indigenous "forest peoples" from around the world held a meeting in Brazil, to demand inclusion in global climate change negotiations, especially with regard to REDD. Attendees from 11 Latin American countries "signed a declaration establishing the International Alliance of Forest Peoples and vowed to continue to push for a place at the table of climate change talks." Among the indigenous groups' demands is that their communities -- and not just loggers, ranchers and plantation owners -- receive REDD-related payments. "The challenge is to pay the native peoples, not the governments," explained Elisa Canqui, a member of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. [10]


Proposals to finance REDD activities via a worldwide carbon market have been a point of contention for many people and groups. However, there are other potential models for REDD financing. (See "Costs and financing," below.)

While it probably has "the largest potential to generate funding for REDD," the carbon market approach would result in "higher levels of emissions in industrialized countries," explained the Union of Concerned Scientists. This means that, in a best case scenario, REDD projects would not decrease global CO2 emissions. Moreover, if REDD projects were not carefully designed and vetted, they might actually lead to an increase in global emissions. [11]

In a similar vein, Friends of the Earth warned that an international carbon market may "create the climate regime's biggest loophole," resulting in the creation of so many carbon "credits" that Annex I Parties to the Kyoto Protocol may be able to avoid changing their "high carbon intensive lifestyles." [8]


Under REDD, "it is the prolific deforesters who have most to gain. Costa Rica will go penniless, while Indonesia could cash in," observed the New Scientist. [12] To address this, "India, Costa Rica and others believe they should get credit for having been 'good' protecting their forests over the years," reported Associated Press. Others warn that "avoided deforestation" credits could flood the market and "drive down the carbon price." [13]

"Forests are being impacted by climate change and if global temperatures increase further, they could switch from acting as carbon sinks to being net sources of carbon because of die-back or forest fires," warned Friends of the Earth. [8]

The World Bank's role in funding some REDD projects has been questioned. Its "track record on forestry is abysmal," Adam Maanit wrote in the New Internationalist. "Not long ago [the World Bank] provided support for the Plantar project in Brazil which is associated with human rights abuses, land grabs, water depletion and destruction of indigenous ecosystems and forests to make way for monoculture eucalyptus plantations that locals call 'green deserts.'" [9]

At the Bali climate change talks, "more than 2,000 members of local and international civil society organizations" protested against REDD. The director of the Bali branch of Walhi, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, called REDD "an unjust scheme for indigenous communities in developing countries." Other protesting groups included the Indonesian Alliance for Indigenous Communities, the Korean youth forum, Greenpeace, La Via Campasina, "farmers, craftsmen and fishermen, and members from traditional communities." [14]

In response to unexpected rapid growth of "secondary" rain forests, some scientists argued for their inclusion in REDD schemes. The new growth on previously-cleared land in "Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions" -- by one estimate, "more than 50 acres of new forest" for "every acre of rain forest cut down each year" -- absorbs more carbon than established rain forests. "At climate talks held by the United Nations in Poznan, Poland, the world's environment ministers agreed to a new program through which developing countries will be rewarded for preventing deforestation. But little is known about the new forests -- some of them have never even been mapped -- and they were not factored into the equation at the meetings," reported the New York Times. [15]

Costs and financing

The main expense associated with REDD activities are "opportunity costs," described as "expenditures necessary to compensate landowners for the value of the most profitable activity on their land, such as logging or agriculture." Other costs are related to REDD project implementation, administration and transactions. Lastly there are "stabilization costs," such as "payments to ensure that low-deforesting countries ... do not increase their deforestation as REDD is implemented elsewhere." [4]

Global models for REDD estimate $7.77 to $18.86 per ton of reduced CO2 in opportunity costs, and $1 per ton of reductions for the implementation, administration and transaction costs combined. Stabilization costs, which are more difficult to project, have been estimated at $630 million per year, to cover the "ten most important stabilization countries." Given these numbers (all in 2005 U.S. dollars), it is projected that funding at a level of $50 billion per year could reduce tropical deforestation by two-thirds, by the year 2020. However, the cost per ton of CO2 reductions increases, as more reductions are made. [4]

An analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists described the REDD finance models as "direct carbon market, market-linked, and voluntary sources," with growing support for using a variety of financing approaches at different times. In the direct carbon market model, companies in industrialized countries would purchase carbon credits allowing them to exceed their permitted CO2 emissions. That money would fund REDD projects, perhaps through the Clean Development Mechanism. [11]

In the market-linked model, REDD funding would be generated through domestic cap-and-trade credit auctions, allowance allocations, or "by establishing dual market systems in which REDD credits are not fungible with industrial country allowances." Companies or countries would not receive carbon emission credits for funding REDD projects. A market-linked financing approach "could generate funding in the range of tens of billions of dollars annually" for REDD projects, with the CO2 emissions reductions being additional to the reductions by industrialized countries. This would avoid a major pitfall of the carbon market approach, which negates REDD emissions reductions with increased emissions in industrialized countries. [11]

In the voluntary funding model, industrialized countries would fund REDD projects as part of their international aid activities. This approach is likely to generate the smallest and least reliable funding stream. [11]

Country stances

At the Accra climate change talks in 2008: [16]

  • Tuvalu voiced "strong opposition" to funding REDD through placing forests on an international carbon market, while supporting "a tax on international aviation and maritime transportation to finance REDD activities"; and
  • Brazil opposed placing forests on an international carbon market, saying that "any emissions reductions resulting from a REDD mechanism" should be "completely additional to obligations from wealthy, Northern countries to reduce their emissions";
  • Papua New Guinea strongly supported a market-based REDD approach.

Following the Accra talks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's special envoy for forests, Barry Gardiner, expressed concern about payments for avoided deforestation. "I believe there are real flaws in the whole model of avoided deforestation which the UN (climate body) says it wants to use," he said. "To say I'm going to take your taxes and I'm going to pay other countries around the world for not doing what we think they may have done otherwise under some hypothetical model, that doesn't strike me as a very good argument," he said. Instead he proposed that developed countries pay tropical countries based on the area of existing forests but that nations could be expelled from the scheme if they continued to log or burn the forests.[17]

Costa Rica also strongly supports market financing for REDD and, along with Papua New Guinea and "other forest-rich developing countries," introduced the proposal for a "global carbon market to create economic incentives for tropical forest conservation." [2] As mentioned above, Costa Rica, India and "others believe they should get credit for having been 'good' protecting their forests over the years." [13]

The REDD proposal was "pushed by host Indonesia and several other developing countries with large forests that are being cut down rapidly," at the December 2007 climate talks. [18] Singapore announced support for Indonesia's stance on REDD in December 2007. [19]

In the December 2007 negotiations of the UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, the United States made "last-minute efforts to block consensus ... first by calling for deletion of the paragraph linking REDD to the Bali road map, and second by insisting on last-minute wording to link deforestation and degradation to broader land use considerations." [20]

U.S. bills

Various climate change-related bills introduced to the U.S. Congress have included language on funding REDD projects through market-linked and carbon market / offset approaches. As of September 2008, none of the bills had become law.

The Climate Security Act 2008, introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Warner, would direct 2.5 percent of funds raised through a "cap-and-trade" system reducing U.S. emissions to "international forest protection." The bill would also allow U.S. companies to buy emissions offsets, through a potential REDD carbon market. Representative Lloyd Doggett's "Climate MATTERS Act" would generate REDD funding from U.S. sales of carbon emissions allowances, and would also allow U.S. companies to buy REDD emissions offsets. Representative Edward Markey's iCAP Act would also generate REDD funding from carbon emissions sales, but would not allow U.S. companies to buy REDD emissions offsets. [21]


In August 2008, Australia pledged A$2.3 million, to fund an "initial" 18 REDD projects in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Fiji and the Solomon Islands. The funding is the first part of a "four-year Asia-Pacific forestry skills and capacity building programme, which would see a total of 15.8m dollars committed to sustainable forest management in the Asia-Pacific." [22]

In December 2007, the World Bank announced a $300 million REDD fund. $100 million would go to a "'readiness' fund [to] provide grants to around 20 countries to prepare them for large-scale forest protection." The remaining $200 million would go towards a "carbon finance mechanism" to fund REDD pilot programs in developing countries. [23]

In September 2007, the World Bank approved formation of a Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), which began operations in June 2008. The FCPF directs voluntary donations from industrialized countries to grants for forest preservation in developing countries. The FCPF Steering Committee includes representatives from "developing and industrialized countries, plus observers from international organizations, non-governmental institutions, and forest-dependent indigenous peoples and other forest dwellers," according to a a World Bank press release. In July 2008, the FCPF announced that its first developing country partners would be the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and Madagascar in Africa; Bolivia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Mexico and Panama in Latin America; and Nepal, Laos and Vietnam in Asia. [24]

Official UNFCCC statement

At the December 2007 Bali meeting (also referred to as COP13, the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC), the following list was officially adopted, as "approaches to stimulate action" to reduce "emissions from deforestation in developing countries": [25]

  1. Invites Parties to further strengthen and support ongoing efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation on a voluntary basis;
  2. Encourages all Parties, in a position to do so, to support capacity-building, provide technical assistance, facilitate the transfer of technology to improve, inter alia, data collection, estimation of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, monitoring and reporting, and address the institutional needs of developing countries to estimate and reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation;
  3. Further encourages Parties to explore a range of actions, identify options and undertake efforts, including demonstration activities, to address the drivers of deforestation relevant to their national circumstances, with a view to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and thus enhancing forest carbon stocks due to sustainable management of forests;
  4. Encourages, without prejudice to future decisions of the Conference of the Parties, the use of the indicative guidance provided in the annex as an aid in undertaking and evaluating the range of demonstration activities;
  5. Invites Parties, in particular Parties included in Annex II to the Convention, to mobilize resources to support efforts in relation to the actions referred to in paragraphs 1–3 above;
  6. Encourages the use of the most recent reporting guidelines1 as a basis for reporting greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, noting also that Parties not included in Annex I to the Convention are encouraged to apply the Good Practice Guidance for Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry."

The Bali conference also requested the UNFCC's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice to undertake further work to address various methodolgical issues ahead of further talks on the topic at the Accra Climate Change Talks 2008, COP14 and COP15.

COP14 negotiations

The Chair of COP 14, Yvo de Boer, outlined at his initial press conference for the meeting that his expectations were that one of the key areas that the meeting would make progress on would be REDD.[26] The Climate Action Network also hoped that the conference would make "a strong decision" on REDD which would "support the equitable sharing of benefits among and within countries, including through the explicit recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Without consideration of these issues the long-term effectiveness of REDD would be critically undermined." They cautioned that "failure to achieve a decision on REDD in Poznan will risk a weak decision, or none at all, in the pressure of last minute deals at Copenhagen."[27]

At the conclusion of the conference the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice had made little progress. In its final report to the conference, SBSTA reported that it was requesting that an expert meeting be convened, "subject to the availability of supplementary funding", to prepare a report on methodological issues relating to emission levels for deforestation and degradation and the the role forest management practices on emission levels. The group also called for the secretariat to prepare "a technical paper on the cost of implementing methodologies and monitoring systems related to estimates of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation" and related issues for future consideration.[28]

The Climate Action Network bemoaned the lack of progress. "The current surreal state of the REDD negotiations, including the (non)conclusions coming out of SBSTA, is not setting up the creation of a mechanism likely to achieve any of the outcomes Parties have so sincerely expressed hopes for ... A REDD mechanism without strong requirements for good governance, transparency and complementary demand-side driver policies, without respect for the rights and interests of forest-dependent peoples, or without a reality-based definition of what a forest and its degradation really are = a failure," they wrote.[29]

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin's summary of the two weeks of talks was equally glum. It noted that "extended consultations [on REDD] focused on the presence of a semicolon in text recommending methodological guidance on 'issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.' This text, present in early drafts, was drawn from paragraph 1(b)(iii) of the Bali Action Plan. India and others, seeking a more central role for conservation and other activities, sought removal of the semicolon, which would give these issues more prominence in the text. The final text included a comma in place of the semicolon, a move many interpreted as a small victory for inclusion of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in any possible future REDD mechanism."[30]

Articles and resources

Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Michael Casey, "UN conference to approve forest protection as part of climate plan," The Associated Press, December 15, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Tropical Deforestation and Global Warming: Reducing tropical deforestation is feasible, affordable, and essential to avoid dangerous global warming," Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed September 2008.
  3. An Bollen, "Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation", Inside Asia Pacific, United Nations Development Program, Volume 2, Issue 2, July 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Doug Boucher, Ph.D., "Estimating the Cost and Potential of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation (pdf)," Union of Concerned Scientists, August 2008.
  5. "Text of G8 statement on environment, climate," via BBC Worldwide Monitoring, July 8, 2008.
  6. UN Food and Agriculture Organization, "Remote Sensing And Field Inventories to Monitor Forests Worldwide," Africa News, July 16, 2008.
  7. "Plan To Conserve Forests May Be Detrimental To Other Ecosystems," Space Daily, June 18, 2008.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Friends of the Earth International, "Forests Are More Than Carbon" (PDF), briefing paper, August 2008.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Adam Ma'anit, "Costing the earth: as the deadline for gathering pledges for the Yasuni proposal to leave oil in the ground in return for financial compensation fast approaches, pressure is mounting to tap into the global carbon market. But at what cost?" New Internationalist, July 1, 2008.
  10. Alexei Barrionuevo, "Amazon's 'Forest Peoples' Seek a Role in Striking Global Climate Agreements," The New York Times, April 6, 2008.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Doug Boucher, Ph.D., "Filling the REDD Basket: Complementary Financing Approaches (pdf)," Union of Concerned Scientists, August 2008.
  12. Fred Pearce, "How to save the climate and the forests too: Paying deforesters to leave carbon locked away in the rainforests sounds like a great idea, but can it work," New Scientist, March 22, 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Michael Casey, "To save a forest: World eyes grand plan of payoffs to preserve trees, protect climate," The Associated Press, February 4, 2008.
  14. "Thousands protest in Indonesia's Bali against carbon trading," The Jakarta Post, December 10, 2007.
  15. Elisabeth Rosenthal, "New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests," New York Times, January 29, 2009.
  16. Kate Horner, "Friends of the Earth Reports from Ghana: International Mechanism for Forest Protection Must Be Equitable," August 23, 2008.
  17. Gerard Wynn, "UN Plan to Protect Forests Flawed - UK Adviser", Reuters, September 8, 2008.
  18. Walden Bello, "The Day After," Foreign Policy in Focus, December 17, 2007.
  19. "UNFCCC: RI, S'pore Share View on Bali Roadmap," Antara (Indonesia), December 12, 2007.
  20. Ramesh Jaura, "Climate: Activists Issue 'Fossil Awards' to Summit Saboteurs," InterPress Service, December 12, 2007.
  21. Diana Movius, "Progress on Climate and REDD in the United States Congress (pdf)," Union of Concerned Scientists, August 2008.
  22. "Australia announces funds to combat Asia-Pacific deforestation," The National (Papua New Guinea) via BBC Worldwide Monitoring, August 20, 2008.
  23. "World Bank launches forest carbon fund; $300 million to help in better management," Reuters via The Vancouver Province (British Columbia), December 13, 2007.
  24. Press release, "First Countries Named to Benefit from Forest Carbon Partnership Facility; 14 developing and 9 industrialized countries formally join partnership to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation," World Bank Group, July 22, 2008.
  25. "Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action", United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, December 2007.
  26. "Previous coverage from COP 14", UNFCCC, December 1, 2008, (Scroll down). (A podcast of the media conference is available here).
  27. Climate Action Network, "The Copenhagen Countdown", ECO, December 1, 2008, pages 1 & 4.
  28. Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, Agenda item 5: Reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries: approaches to stimulate action", UNFCCC, December 10, 2008. (Pdf)
  29. "Setting REDD up for failure?", ECO, Climate Action Network International, December 11, 2008.
  30. "COP14 Highlights December 1-12, 2008: Summary of the Fourteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Fourth Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol", Volume 12 Number 395, December 15, 2008.

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