REDD+ mechanism could be too late to save world’s rainforests

Governments in Brazil, Congo, Indonesia and Mexico can act now to protect forests says new study

Source: Flickr/ben britten

Source: Flickr/ben britten

By Sophie Yeo

Parliaments and national legislation are key to reducing deforestation, according to a report released last week by Globe International.

The global forum of legislators says Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and the Democratic Republic of Congo do not need to wait for a binding climate change deal in 2015 to reduce the destruction of forests.

Deforestation account for around 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is especially damaging because the jungles of the Amazon, Congo and Sumatra store vast quantities of carbon.

UN climate talks starting next Monday in Warsaw are set to resume discussions on how a mechanism known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) can be developed.

REDD+ is a contentious issue, and with forest degradation increasing, the report’s backers say more focus needs to be placed on the role of national parliaments in addressing the problem.

Writing in the Guardian, Globe International President Lord Deben said power needs to be handed to legislators in the affected countries.

“With 2015 on the horizon, much is now at stake for a global deal on forests and climate change. These can both still be secured with a concerted effort that is driven by national parliaments,” he said. “Time is of the essence, however, and we ignore the ticking clock at our peril.”

Wood from the trees

The REDD+ programme uses funds from developed countries, which are used to pay developing countries to keep their forests intact.

An absence of legal clarity in developing countries means that land is often given over to exploitation for economic gain, including agriculture, mining and oil exploration. Clearer rules on a national level would prevent forests coming second to economic interests.

7,732 mining permits have been granted to mining companies, for instance, with 3.5 million hectares of them encroaching on protected forest areas.

Initially seen as a quick and easy means of reducing carbon emissions, thanks to the large amount of CO2 that forests absorb, the REDD+ process has become a stumbling block for international negotiations.

It has become bound up in issues of indigenous people’s rights, while corruption is a threat due to the large amount of money involved.

Getting an international consensus on REDD+ is likely to prove vital in achieving a strong climate deal. With UN talks commencing in Warsaw next week, progress on the issue could help remove one of the obstacles to an effective agreement in 2015.

“Urgent engagement with parliaments, and advancement of strong national forest legislation, is now crucial if a REDD+ deal is to be reached in 2015.  Achieving this goal is still possible,” said Senator Alejandro Encinas of Mexico, where there is already protection in place for indigenous communities.

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