Climate Change

Why reducing emissions from deforestation, forest degradation remains a challenge

Fund constraints and lack of clarity on implementation derails the progress of REDD+

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 05 October 2018
Photo: iStock

Forests are important carbon sinks. Between 1990 and 2007, the world's forests stored about 2.4 gigatonnes of carbon per year. Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100 will not be possible without carbon sequestration by the forests. By 2050, the world would need to sequester and store 8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtCO2) annually on average. But deforestation and degradation of forests is also account for more than 10 per cent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emission—a major trigger for climate change.

Realising that forests have large mitigation impact on climate change, a global mechanism to tackle deforestation and forest degradation called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) was formalised in 2007 at the United Nations Conference of Parties (CoP) on climate change.

While more than 300 REDD+ initiatives have been implemented globally, “there is no convincing evidence to establish the contribution of REDD+ in halting or reversing global deforestation trends,” says a recently released policy brief by the Centre for Science and Environment.

Finance: a major hurdle

Reducing emissions from forest land-use change was touted to be more economical than reducing emissions from other sectors. However, the costs of REDD+ have proven to be much higher. Quoting studies, the CSE’s policy brief says that the developing countries would need between US $17 and $28 billion per year to reduce global emissions from deforestation by 50 per cent between 2005 and 2030. “The slowdown in political momentum in REDD+ and the global economic crisis have been held responsible for the poor quantum of REDD+ finance commitments post-2010,” reads the policy brief.

While the private sector, according to some experts, was expected to provide much of the REDD+ finance, its share has not exceeded 10 per cent of the total finance commitments during 2016-17. Moreover, questions have been raised on the way opportunity cost for REDD+ is calculated to compensate the cost of switching to more environment-friendly practices.

Why India struggles to implement REDD+

Under its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, India proposes to create a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 by 2030 through the forestry sector. To that end, initiatives like the Green India Mission have been proposed to increase forest cover by 5 million hectares (mha) and improve forest quality in another 5 mha.

While the country formulated a Draft National REDD+ Policy detailing the objectives, it lacked clarity on how the programme will be implemented.  “The Draft Policy has been silent on the new forest management regime under the Forest Rights Act 2006,” the policy brief points out. Even before REDD+ can be implemented in India, the country needs to take corrective measures to prevent diversion of thousands of hectares of forests to development projects.

Similarly, the REDD+ rules developed under UNFCCC are difficult to implement due to complex and diverse forest governance issues across countries. The UNFCCC does not have enough funds for REDD+. The Green Climate Fund, considered the most popular financing option, has also failed to mobilise money from developed countries. This has also affected credibility of REDD+ under UNFCCC.

Key reforms needed in the REDD+ mechanism

While the CSE policy brief argues that REDD+ can achieve synergy between climate change mitigation and equitable distribution of resources with forest-dwelling communities, it calls for “a bottom-up initiative owned largely by communities with technical and funding support from state/regional governments and national governments”.

Resolving tenure issues before implementing REDD+ finds prominence in the list of recommendations. “Communities should not feel threatened about losing traditional access to their lands and forests through the REDD+ processes. In forest areas where community use is limited, state and national governments should take over in implementing REDD+,” says the policy brief.

Besides developing safeguards against land grabbing and resource alienation, India needs to ensure that at least 70 per cent of the payments from carbon revenues should be made directly to forest users as cash transfer. REDD+, according to CSE, should not become a “mechanism to promote exclusionary conservation where protected areas and their buffer zones form the major chunk of the project area”. Instead, REDD+ project areas should be a healthy mix of smallholder farms and sustainably managed forest areas, preferably by communities.

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