REDD signals!

Aditya Acharya and Mahesh Poudel

Published in The Kathmandu Post. This link – http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2018-03-27/redd-signals.html

Mar 27, 2018
It was discovered that deforestation and forest land degradation contribute to 17 percent of the worldwide carbon emissions which is a major factor of the current global warming phenomenon. So, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation was seen as one of the major issues to address this phenomenon. Conceived initially as RED (reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries), the current state of REDD+ was formalized during the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bali, Indonesia in 2007. The concept is to allow the developed countries (Annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC) to offset their emissions by providing financial incentives for the projects in developing countries (non-Annex 1 countries of the UNFCCC) that reduce emissions by preventing deforestation and degradation.

The formal term now is REDD+ which is an extension of REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest land degradation); an addition of three other components, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in the later. REDD is the mechanism to curb emissions and UN-REDD is the program of the United Nations (UN) that assists the participating countries for the REDD readiness. And the UN_REDD program has 64 partner countries; 28 in Africa, 19 in Asia Pacific and 17 in Latin America and the Carribean.

Corruption in the partners

The Transparency International (TI) last month (February) published the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) Report for 2017 which shows the perceived level of public sector corruptions in 180 countries around the world. Of the 64 partner countries of the UN REDD program, 57 (89%) of them have the CPI score of less than 50 out of 100, zero score being the most corrupt and 100 the cleanest. Fifty five out of those 64 (86%) have the CPI score of less than the global average score of 43.07. Only 5 (7.8%) of them have the CPI score of more than 43.07 and 4 of them are not scored. Bhutan and Chile are the least corrupt countries among those 64 countries with an equal score of 67 and Costa Rica is the second one with a score of 59. Can we really be optimistic about the success of the mechanism that works among the most corrupt countries of the world? Is carbon finance fair and effective? The TI writes – “Sadly, many of the world’s most densely forested countries have a poor track record for corruption. In the current global economy, trees are worth a lot more cut down than they are in the ground, and politicians have been known to accept bribes – sometimes huge – to grant companies access to forest zones that should be protected.

Safeguards

There are seven safeguards which were adopted at COP 16 in 2010 in Cancun, Mexico (hence called Cancun safeguards) keeping in mind the potential risks that might arise during the REDD implementation, which also includes ‘Transparent and effective national forest governance structures, taking into account national legislation and sovereignty’. Just to remind, these countries are corrupt not because they don’t have good laws and policies but because the corrupt bureaucracy, the politicians as well as people there easily outsmart them. If the safeguards would really work, those countries should never be so corrupt. Yes, if the countries fail to meet the safeguards, they will not be paid. That is fine. But what about the billions of dollars already invested in REDD readiness then? Will that all be ‘water poured in the sand’?

There are so many complex, technical aspects included that even a well-educated person cannot completely understand. And the indigenous people of those countries, where the literacy percentage is also very low, are expected to fully trust the corrupt bureaucracy in their countries to deliver them the benefits of keeping the forests safe!

What should be done?

It is not that no works should be done in those countries fearing corruption but alternative ways of reducing the emissions should be sought. One confusing thing is – how the REDD benefits the environment when the developed countries can emit the same amount of GHGs as sequestered by the developing countries under REDD mechanism, just by paying them money!? This is not to mean that the developing countries should be allowed to deforest or degrade the forest land but that the developed countries should not be allowed to emit as much carbon as they want just by paying money. Is it the money or the reduction in GHG emissions that actually matters for developing countries? Why can’t the developing countries pressurize the developed ones to reduce as much carbon emissions as they sequester rather than asking for the payments? That way, the changing climate will have double benefits.

Either money that is going to the developing countries should be invested in the developed countries itself reducing emissions to an amount that developing ones are likely to sequester or corruption in the developing countries should be highly reduced. Otherwise, there are no green signals for REDD.

 The Kathmandu Post - REDD Signals

Epaper link – http://epaper.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2018-03-27/6

Advertisements

Forests Fuelling Progress

Published in The Kathmandu Post. This link –  http://kathmandupost.ekantipur.com/news/2017-09-12/forests-fuelling-progress.html

The KTM Post Article

Sep 12, 2017

With the end of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015, the world has now embarked on another path towards the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. Prepared by the United Nations (UN), the agenda constitutes 17 goals with 169 targets envisioning a more peaceful, just, sustainable and inclusive world by 2030. These goals have been dubbed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address three dimensions of sustainable development—social, economic and environmental. Achieving these goals requires ambition and hard work. Nepal’s community forestry sector can contribute significantly to the achievement of these goals as well.

What began with the handing over of a patch of forest to be utilised and managed by the local villagers of Thokarpa Village in the Sindhupalchowk district in 1973 has now become a world renowned community forestry model. Community Forests (CF), as stated by the Forest Act 1993, are that part of a national forest which is handed over to the local people, forming a group known as Community Forest User Group (CFUG), for the management and utilisation of the forest and its resources provided that they are able and willing to manage it. Now, there are 19,361 CFs in the country with an equal number of CFUGs.

Policy linkage

Poverty and hunger reduction were targets for the very first goal in the MDGs. The first and second goals of the SDGs also aim to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms and end hunger and achieve food security by 2030. The Community Forest Development Program Guideline 2014-15 clearly states that 35 percent of the total income of the CFUG should be invested in pro-poor targeted programs within the group. The annual income of Nepal’s CFs is over $10 million and the figure continues to increase as the number of CFs being handed to the user groups is also increasing. The community forestry sector contributes roughly $4 million annually (35 per cent of $10 million) to the pro-poor targeted programs. Though there are accusations that community forestry is under elite domination, the poor are also benefiting considerably. Community forestry has the potential to bring about a number of positive developments, however, this process is impeded by a lack of effective governance and law enforcement.

The Community Forest Development Program Guideline also stipulates that among the two tiers of the organisational structure of CFUG, i.e. General Assembly (GA) and Executive Committee (EC), either the chairperson or the secretary must be a woman. In order for the group to establish and maintain a bank account, there must be a joint signature, of which one signature must be a woman’s. These provisions help empower women and girls, involve them in the decision-making process in public life, and provide equal opportunities for leadership which are envisioned in the fifth goal of the SDGs. Similarly, there must be 50 percent women participation in the EC with proportionate representation of Dalits, Janajatis, and indigenous and marginalised people. This helps to reduce inequalities within the country by achieving inclusive and just societies, and it also ensures inclusive participation in public decision making. There are so many CFUGs that are run solely by women and are reported to perform better than mixed gender CFUGs. The provisions of annual public hearing and internal and public auditing help develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions. This process has worked in the CFUGs case as well. It is deemed mandatory for 25 percent of the income from the CF to be spent on forest management, development and protection activities. This aims to minimise adverse effects of climate change, combat desertification, halt and reverse desertification, and halt biodiversity loss.

Positive impacts

The CFUGs have been involved in numerous other activities like providing scholarships for deserving students from their groups, constructing gobar-gas (biogas made from cow dung) plants, constructing and/or maintaining physical infrastructures like roads, schools, hospital buildings and toilets to name a few. These activities all help to accomplish targets in one way or the other. The scholarships help in ensuring quality education, constructing toilets and hospitals help to ensure sanitation and healthy lives, constructing gobar-gas plants ensures access to affordable and sustainable energy, and so on.

But it is neither the provisions nor the goals themselves that make a difference. We have to act upon them to bring about the desired differences. The UN itself states that the SDGs are not stand-alone goals, and neither were the MDGs. So it cannot be explicitly stated that a particular sector/activity helps achieve one specific goal. Achievement (or underachievement) of one goal has considerable impacts on the achievement of other goals too. For example, eradicating poverty and ensuring sustainable consumption and production helps to reduce hunger, managing forests sustainably and scientifically helps to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change, ensuring inclusive and quality education helps to create peaceful, just and inclusive societies and so on. Evidence also shows that families with educated mothers are more stable. So, either directly or indirectly, the forestry sector, and community forestry in particular greatly impacts the achievement of global goals. Budget allocation for the forestry sector has to increase and more work should be done to achieve greater and more sustainable benefits.

Another positive point of CFGUs is that they are not run by politicians, but by local people who work for their own personal advancement. This increases the likelihood that guidelines will be adhered to.