REDD+ should value forests as more than “carbon warehouses”

By Tierney Smith

REDD+ should not reduce forests to merely carbon stocks, warns report (Source: Taunting Panda/Flickr)

Efforts to reduce emissions through deforestation must take into account the biodiversity and livelihood benefits of forests and view them as more than “carbon warehouses”, a new report has warned.

Researchers from the International Union of Forest Research Organisations (IUFRO) found biodiversity to be critical to a forest’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases. They called on policy makers to address the potential co-benefits of REDD+ for ecosystems and climate change.

REDD+ is the UN’s scheme aimed at reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation. It offers financial incentives to developing countries to protect their tropical forests.

The call comes just over a week before countries head to the UN’s climate summit in Doha, Qatar, where they will discuss ways to move forward with REDD+ agreements reached at the last conference in Doha.

Environmental benefits and safeguards, good governance and financing the scheme will all be on the agenda at this year’s conference.

The IUFRO report found that globally there are around two billion hectares of land that are potentially available for forest restoration – an area larger than South America.

But finding the balance between carbon and biodiversity goals could be difficult, it warns. For example, restoring this land with a variety of native trees would bring better biodiversity benefits, while extensive monocultures of trees with higher rates of carbon absorption could benefit climate aims.

The report also warned that those people in tropical and sub-tropical rainforest regions, dependant on the forests could be vulnerable to the changes brought about by REDD+.

It says including these people in the scheme – addressing tenure and property rights, access, use and ownership – will also strengthen the scheme and lead to a higher chance of success.

“There is clear evidence that including objectives to improve the livelihoods of forest-dependant people and local communities will strengthen local involvement and acceptance, and thereby support REDD+ goals,” said Christoph Wildburger, from IUFRO.

Without the inclusion of these biodiversity and social concerns, REDD+ programmes will not succeed, even in conserving carbon, warns the report.

The report will be presented at the COP18 conference during Forest Day on 2 December.

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