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OPINION: World Forestry Day reflections – what next for REDD+?

Also posted in Spanish

World Forestry Day on 21 March allows us to reflect on the many and varied benefits of forests to communities around the world. One of the biggest of these is the important role forestsForestry is the management and care of woods, including fellings and plantation of new trees. play in carbon sequestrationThe uptake and storage of carbon. Trees and plants, for example, absorb carbon dioxide, release the oxygen and store the carbon. Fossil fuels were at one time biomass and continue to store the carbon until burned. and storage. Recent attention on forests from the international community has focused on this role in climate change mitigationMitigation refers to actions that reduce our contribution to the causes of climate change. This means reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), through energy efficiency and using alternative forms of transport and energy.(UKCIP), particularly through the REDD+ mechanism agreed as part of the UNFCCC agreements reached in Cancun, Mexico in December 2010.

But the agreement also took important steps to recognise the other roles that forests play. The Cancun Agreement on REDD+ sought to safeguard the multiple uses and benefits of forests, and discuss the challenges of integrating forests and REDD+ into broader low-carbon development strategies.


Throughout its development, the REDDIt is expected that support for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) should achieve cost effective emission reductions, as well as biodiversity and livelihoods benefits.+ mechanism has been criticised for focusing too heavily on the role of forests in the carbon cycleThe term used to describe the flow of carbon (in various forms, e.g. as carbon dioxide) through the atmosphere, ocean, terrestrial biosphere and lithosphere. (IPCC)A natural process remove about half of each year's anthropogenic CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, but it isn't totally understood ..., to the exclusion of other values. The safeguards (Annex 1) in the REDD+It is expected that support for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) should achieve cost effective emission reductions, as well as biodiversity and livelihoods benefits. REDD-plus includes conservation, the sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of ... agreement recognise and promote these broader values, suggesting that REDD+ activitiesREDD-plus activities aim to reduce emissions from forest degradation and deforestation. should take into account the ‘multiple functions of forests’ and be ‘implemented in the context of sustainable developmentThe concept of sustainable development was introduced in the World Conservation Strategy (IUCN 1980) and had its roots in the concept of a sustainable society and in the management of renewable resources. Adopted by the WCED in 1987 and by the Rio Conference in 1992 as a process of change in ... and reducing poverty’.  The safeguards also underline how the knowledge and rights of indigenous people and local communities, as well as full participation of local stakeholders, should be promoted and supported when undertaking REDD+ activities. But the success of these safeguards will be measured by the success of national-level implementation. This will determine how well the broader values are not only protected, but enhanced by REDD+.

Integrating forests within low-carbon development strategies

In order for REDD+ effectively to protect additional forest values, and to be sustainable and effective in the long term, REDD+ will need to be integrated into broader low-carbon development strategies.  Reducing emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) in the forestDefined under the Kyoto Protocol as a minimum area of land of 0.05-1.0 ha with tree-crown cover (or equivalent stocking level) of more than 10-30 % with trees with the potential to reach a minimum height of 2-5 m at maturity in situ. A forest may consist either of closed forest formations where ... sector will necessarily involve changes in other sectors which drive deforestation and forest degradation, such as in agricultureCultivation of the ground and harvesting of crops and handling of livestock, the primary function is the provision of food and feed. and energy. So it’s vital that the equityEquity is the concept or idea of fairness in economics, particularly as to taxation or welfare economics. impacts of all these changes are carefully analysed and managed.

Another way to embed REDD+ within a low-carbon development strategy is to ensure that the economic opportunities in the forest sector are maintained and enhanced, although they may be transformed to low-carbon alternatives – for example, jobs in commercial logging might be shifted to agroforestry. REDD+ may also provide opportunities for enhanced community benefits from forest conservation and sustainable management activities.

But the size and distribution of these potential benefits will depend on national and regional-level benefit distribution frameworks. To ensure that these are designed equitably, we’ll need a sound understanding of the costsCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... and benefits of implementing various REDD+ policies and programmes, and to involve all stakeholders in the design process.

Forest protection at a large scale can increase the resilience of some sectors – such as hydropower, drinking waterDrinking water quality has a micro-biological and a physico-chemical dimension. There are thousands of parameters of water quality. In public water supply systems water should, at a minimum, be disinfected—most commonly through the use of chlorination or the use of ultra violet light—or it ... and tourism – which are particularly dependent on forests. However, the impact of REDD+ on adaptation is not always positive, and the design of REDD+ policies and programmes should carefully  consider the present and future adaptation needs of forest-dependent communities. This will be necessary not just for implementing the internationally agreed safeguards, but also for effectively integrating REDD+ into countries’ low-carbon development agendas.

For more information, see CDKN’s Policy Brief on REDD+

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