Stopping Massive Deforestation – A Bright Spot at Climate Talks

NWF's Eric Palola

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, expectations are pretty modest for climate progress at the international talks here in Cancun.

There are some places where we can and must act, and reduced emissions from deforestation (REDD) is one such building block that can help set up an eventual broad and binding agreement.

Eric Palola is hard at work on that front for National Wildlife Federation. He’s our senior director for forests and wildlife and here’s his take on the REDD talks so far:



Eric on Deforestation and Cancun:

Es Momento de Actuar – it is time to act.

The refrain rumbling in the meeting halls of Cancun this week at COP16 is we must act.

Given the much ballyhooed Copenhagen conference last year which ended in recriminations and a voluntary “Accord”, the expectations for a binding agreement have been intentionally downplayed in the latest round of talks in Cancun, Mexico.  Indeed the fate of the entire UNFCCC Conference of the Parties or the COP process hangs in the balance if no concrete progress can be shown here.

However, one agreement that appears within reach is a deal on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Although several other big issues in play such as binding emissions targets and rules on monitoring and verification, a REDD deal would be very good news.  This is because it is generally recognized that land based carbon emissions, from forest and peatlands conversion and agricultural activities, contribute between one-fifth to one-quarter of global greenhouse gases, some 8-10 gigatons per year.  S

Slowing and stopping deforestation and further degradation will require $20-30 billion annually, a challenging level for multilateral public investment given the difficulty of G7 nations to live up to their modest commitments under the Copenhagen Accord– but a very achievable goal with the creation of market driven incentives. Not surprisingly one of the current major sticking points in the REDD text is the source of Finance.

Three options are in play:  market, no market, or a hybrid public-private mechanism that will likely depend on the interests of the host country.  What is acceptable to Bolivia may be quite different than what is acceptable in Brazil due to levels of institutional support, land tenure patterns, deforestation rates, and the need for social and environmental safeguards at the local level.

The other sticking point is whether a REDD deal can go forward as a fast-start agreement independent from the broader negotiating text that won’t likely be completed, if at all, until COP17 late next year. Given the loss of some 10 million hectares (about 25 million acres) per year over the last decade and the need to bend an emissions curve headed towards the danger zone of over 2 degrees Centigrade change (based on weak Copenhagen pledges to date), many delegates and NGOs are anxious to get going.

There are some negotiators who believe that nothing can be agreed to until everything is agreed to.  But that has been a recipe for failure thus far.  Maybe it is time to act on the pieces we can agree on and start conserving forests for climate and wildlife by getting a REDD deal this week, now.

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Published: December 7, 2010