Thursday, 18 February 2010

Is REDD the new green?

Deforestation contributes an estimated 17% to global greenhouse gas emissions and reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) is one of the most effective ways of addressing climate change. Further, avoiding dangerous climate change would be very hard to achieve without addressing deforestation.

Despite its cost-effectiveness, significant funding will be required to address deforestation due to the scale and complexity of the problem. The Union of Concerned Scientist estimates that “for $5 billion a year, REDD can protect nearly 20% of the tropical forests in danger of deforestation, and $20 billion a year can protect about half. With funding approaching $50 billion a year, tropical deforestation could be reduced by two-thirds.” In comparison, the UK’s Eliasch Review estimates between $17-33 billion would be required annually in order to halve emissions from deforestation by 2030.

The outcomes of the climate summit in Copenhagen included a Green Climate Fund over $10 billion annually between 2010-12, only a portion of which will be allocated to REDD activities. While the current funds available are certainly not sufficient or adequate, the promise of increased funding in the future can be used to further evaluate the existing carbon stock in tropical forests, develop demonstration projects and establish the necessary institutional structures.

For Africa, there are immense opportunities to attract climate finance to the Congo Basin Forest which is the world’s second biggest tropical forest after the Amazon. It contains about one quarter of the world’s tropical forest, a wealth of biodiversity with about 10,000 plant species and 70% of Africa’s plant cover. Its vegetation alone contains about 25-30 billion tonnes of carbon – the equivalent of about four years of current global anthropogenic CO2 emissions.

However, the region and its six countries (Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo-Brazzaville, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon) face significant challenges in establishing the mechanism to effectively manage any funds based on relatively weak institutions in most countries. While several efforts such as the Congo Forest Basin Partnership and the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility are only two of numerous activities, it will be crucial for the countries in the Basin to develop their own demonstration projects and fund structures that will show effective implementation, adequate monitoring of carbon stocks and flawless financial administration.

In order to increase credibility and African ownership of current and future forest funding, such pilot programs should be a mix of government and market-based approaches for both the funding and the administration of the funds and projects. The Copenhagen Accord already called for a mix public and private sources of funding but it will be important to also develop the right mix of institutions to allow innovative and effective mechanism to address the great challenges and opportunities REDD provides for Africa.

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