REDD+ aims to deploy market forces to combat deforestation and land degradation. But is it working, and should we really put a price on trees and forests? Tara O’Shea from the Code REDD scheme argues it’s the best way forward.
By Tara O’Shea
Increasingly, awareness of the critical role healthy ecosystems play in maintaining the environmental health and economic sustainability of societies is growing.
The realisation that current economic models do not account for this valuable role is also growing, and it is now widely understood that this ‘economic invisibility’ of nature’s valuable services has resulted in their loss and degradation worldwide.
The field of ecosystem services is therefore beginning to address this economic shortcoming, quantifying the value of healthy ecosystems for human societies and economies.
By quantifying the economic value of the benefits we derive from healthy ecosystems, this research is providing a voice for nature in economic decision-making. This is a fundamental, revolutionary, and extremely important shift for approaches to conservation and sustainable development.
A sustainable future requires economic incentives that reconcile environmental and human well-being, and market-based approaches to environmental crises are therefore increasingly effective and sustainable conservation solutions.
Perhaps no conservation effort is currently demonstrating the effective use of a market-based approach as prominently as the development of high quality Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) carbon credits.
Economic forces drive deforestation, which currently accounts for almost 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to fossil-fueled energy production.
REDD+ aims to address these economic forces in its solution: By valuing the carbon stored in the world’s threatened forests, REDD+ makes these forests more valuable as living ecosystems, changing the economic incentives that previously motivated their destruction.
By making conservation the more economically viable option, REDD+ can create incentives for sustainable resource management and human development.
Concerns over REDD+
A vital aspect of REDD+’s success is ensuring quality and integrity within the marketplace.
REDD+ projects must provide additional and verifiable emissions reductions, as well as ensure the benefits of carbon finance reach forest communities.
Another vital aspect of REDD+’s success is its ability to scale; with deforestation continuing at a rate of 13 million hectares a year, the market for REDD+ carbon credits must grow rapidly to address the crisis at hand.
In particular, three concerns about REDD+ projects are often raised. They are:
1. Leakage, or pushing the deforestation that would have otherwise occurred to an adjacent forest;
2. Permanence, or lack of guarantee that the investment (the forest) remains intact for a sufficient period to account for the carbon offset; and
3. Additionality, or whether reductions are additional to what would have occurred in the absence of intervention.
Each of these concerns can be adequately managed if offsets are estimated robustly and uncertainties are quantified.
Designing a REDD+ Project
The design of any legitimate REDD+ project must include guidelines and safeguards that ensure real reductions are being met, and that the benefits reach the communities who protect the forests and the plant and animal species that depend upon them.
For REDD+ to succeed, reduction targets must be measured against a baseline; projects must be robustly monitored and reported; and strong governance and effective mechanisms must ensure the equitable distribution of finance.
At Rio+20, we saw a good indication that the REDD+ market is ready to meet these challenges.
The Code REDD Campaign launched at Rio+20 with the mission of saving the world’s threatened forests by dramatically increasing demand for REDD+ verified emissions reductions through private sector purchases in the voluntary carbon market.
Code REDD aims to scale the market for high quality REDD+ carbon credits, bringing together high-quality REDD+ project developers and prominent corporate buyers in a transparent manner to increase both the supply and demand for REDD+ verified emissions reductions.
To join Code REDD, project developers must agree to abide by the Campaign’s Code of Conduct and must have their projects validated and verified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and the Climate, Community, and Biodiversity standard.
At a time when many leading firms acknowledge that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are a global business threat and many stock exchanges are beginning to require full corporate greenhouse gas disclosure, the private sector is realizing the benefits of high quality REDD+ investments.
For corporate buyers, Code REDD provides the opportunity to meet carbon reduction goals through meaningful projects that generate a number of environmental, social, and biodiversity benefits.
Through these ‘win-win’ partnerships of the Campaign’s market-based approach, Code REDD makes it easy and compelling for corporations to participate and very beneficial for them when they do.
Initiatives like Code REDD illustrate the potential of market-based solutions to effectively address environmental crises.
By acknowledging the value of forests’ ability to store carbon and thereby curb emissions, high quality REDD+ project can halt deforestation on a massive scale, protect vital habitats for endangered species, and create sustainable development opportunities for forest communities.
Code REDD will catalyze this market-based solution to deforestation by scaling the demand for high-quality, high-impact REDD+ projects around the world.
Tara O’Shea is a Campaign Associate at the newly launched Code REDD Campaign and a Carbon Development Associate at Wildlife Works.
VIDEO: Louis Verchot from CIFOR explains the key lessons learnt since the implementation of the first REDD+ projects around the world