IRIN News: Several issues around the UN mechanism that aims to curtail greenhouse gases by preventing forest loss were resolved in Warsaw at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the meeting is being described by many as the “Forest COP”.
The decisions were mostly on how a UN mechanism known as REDD(Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) and its successor, REDD+ (which additionally aims to reverse forest loss) will be governed.
Perhaps the most significant development is a decision that affects local communities and indigenous peoples who live in, or depend on, forests. It has now become mandatory for countries who want to access funds for projects to conserve their forests to show that they are involving local forest-based communities in their efforts, and ensuring their livelihoods are safe.
REDD+ was initially designed to benefit countries with rainforests but now covers all developing countries, which could be compensated for preserving their forests, either from a fund or with carbon credits to be traded on international carbon markets. But private companies as well as countries can earn carbon credits to help them offset their industrial emissions, and this has long been a sore point with the critics of REDD.
So, will REDD+ decisions help forest-linked communities and forests? IRIN takes a closer look.
Help the people, save the trees
Forests are known to remove huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, while the destruction of trees releases carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Environmentalists have long argued that REDD+ must not simply protect trees, it must also protect biodiversity and forest-dependent communities. The logic is that if you don’t help the people who live with the forests, you can’t expect them to help save the trees.
Several studies – including an assessment by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), the world’s largest network of forest scientists – show that efforts to conserve forests, and so reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, cannot work without protecting biodiversity and the well-being of forest dwellers.
“There is clear evidence that including objectives to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependent people and local communities will strengthen local involvement and acceptance, and thereby support REDD+ goals,” said Christoph Wildburger, the coordinator of IUFRO’s Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative, was quoted by IRIN as saying in 2012.
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