2015/12/09 Dresden, Germany
During the first two weeks of December official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society have gathered for the 2015 Paris Climate Conference to discuss a legally binding and universal agreement on climate change. They are discussing and negotiating various methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving the planet’s natural carbon stocks – such as forests. The REDD+ scheme for conserving forests and promoting sustainable forest management is one of the most controversial but promising methods currently under debate in Paris, Prof. Gerald Kapp (TU Dresden) argued at the 8th Joint Nexus Seminar from UNU-FLORES and the Technische Universität Dresden (TU Dresden) on 7 December 2015.
REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries, was originally introduced as part of the UNFCCC in 2007. At its core, it is a mechanism to address environmental degradation and increase forest carbon stocks by quantifying the economic value of forests. After a certain level of use, land is no longer attractive for agriculture and farmers revert to deforestation to secure new fruitful land. As such, famers interest in conserving forest is low, Kapp pointed out. Making carbon payments to farmers and regional actors increases the economic incentive to conserve forests and adhere to national action plans. Currently, over 30 tropical forest countries are trying to implement REDD+ and industrial nations such as Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom announced increased annual support of REDD+, if tropical forest countries come up with ambitious proposals.
While the mechanism is currently the most popular voluntary carbon offset project in existence, it remains controversial for a few main reasons. Kapp outlined the following criticism: First, REDD+ does not lead to real carbon emission reduction, since green carbon and black carbon are not equal. Second, the carbon emissions reduction is potentially not lasting and permanent. Finally, REDD+ does not adequately address the social factors associated with assigning an economic value to forests.
Recognizing the limitations of REDD+, particularly with regard to the third critique, Kapp emphasizes that this is not a perfect and final mechanism. Improvements are necessary that take the environmental characteristics, the anthropogenic impact and social factors further into consideration. The implementation phase is still the most problematic, and national action plans need to address drivers, land tenure issues, forest governance, gender considerations, safeguards, participation of relevant stakeholders and so on, on a regional level.
However, Kapp argues, the undeniable fact remains that decreased use of forests helps support the total carbon balance. Pointing to the experience of Madagascar, he emphasizes, that it is not only conserving forests and reducing carbon emissions, but also improving the economic and social welfare of the nations. As such, it is directly playing a role in reducing the role of carbon in global warming and climate change. Thus, Kapp concluded, in the search for strategies to address climate change – as is currently taking place in Paris – REDD+ remains the best proposal with regard to forest conservation thus far.
The ninth lecture of the Nexus Seminar Series will take place on 18 January 2016 at 15:00 UNU-FLORES in the Seminar Room on the 9th Floor. Prof. Dr. Hiroshan Hettiarachchi, Head of the Waste Management Unit at UNU-FLORES, will talk about The Role of Waste in the Water-Soil-Waste Management Nexus.