By John Parnell
The launch of the largest project in the world to preserve forest carbon under the UN REDD+ scheme could help attract funding for similar projects, according to a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) expert.
REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) projects fund the protection of forests by providing a financial incentive to keep them standing.
The equivalent carbon offset credits are given in return. The offset credits are typically purchased by larges business and manufacturers.
Tim Christophersen, senior programme officer, forests and climate change at UNEP told RTCC that the 64,000 hectare Rimba Raya project could help to build support for REDD+ and provide a template for future initiatives.
“High profile projects such as Rimba Raya can serve as a model, both within Indonesia and globally, that there are real opportunities for large scale investments,” said Christophersen. “We can learn a lot from the difficult road that led to this key project, and from here onwards, from its implementation.”
It is hoped that REDD+ can be integrated into the new climate treaty being negotiated through the UNFCCC and due to come into force by 2020. In the meantime, a number of pilot projects, including Rimba Raya will be developed to help tweak the system’s rules and speed up what is currently a red tape-heavy approvals process.
“I think we have made a lot of progress in recent years to show that REDD+ can yield multiple benefits, if it is designed and implemented well, and safeguards are addressed and respected. Now we need to bring more countries on board, and support them,” said Christophersen.
It has been estimated that as much as $30bn a year could eventually be attracted into the REDD+ scheme. Christophersen said there is still work to do to ensure more financing comes into the programme.
“There is some progress, for example through the UNEP Finance Initiative, to interest the private sector in REDD+. However, there is still a large ‘perspective gap’ between the worlds of private finance, and the public world of REDD+ policy.
“The UN-REDD Programme is working to bridge this gap,” he added.
With two thirds of its annual greenhouse gas emissions associated with deforestation, Indonesia has become a focus for many looking to preserve forest carbon. Much of the forests are cleared to make way for the country’s $20bn a year palm oil industry so additional incentives are key.
A UNEP study in Kenya found that the socio-economic value of leaving forests standing was 4.2 times greater than the short-term gains of deforestation.
Norway established a $1bn fund to preserve Indonesian forests with more work required to trim down the lengthy approvals process without sacrificing any of the rigour. On the long list of criteria, projects must consult with indigenous people, undergo careful measuring of the potential emissions savings and ensure the protection of biodiversity.
The InfiniteEARTH project developers for Rimba Raya described themselves as “exhausted but overjoyed” that the project had been approved.
“The Rimba Raya project has undergone a lengthy and complex review process,” said Dr. Robert J. Hrubes, executive vice president of the Rimba Raya auditor SCS. “The scale of this project is truly precedent setting, demonstrating a strong market value in preserving forests,” he added.
REDD+ has proved controversial throughout its development and Christophersen said it that ongoing process must be handled with care.
“It is important to get pilot projects right, especially if they are at large scale. And it is essential that there is a coordinated national approach to REDD+ implementation, including for any pilot projects,” he said.
“At the same time, we need to allow for some flexibility to ensure we can innovate, and learn from different approaches.”