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

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Set Emission Limits

Published in The Himalayan Times. This link – https://thehimalayantimes.com/opinion/set-emission-limits-mitigation-priority/

The Himalayan Times Article 2017 -12-01

Dec 01, 2017

The 23rd Conference of Parties (CoP23) ended with an agreement, among others, to prepare a ‘rule book’ next year in Poland for the implementation of the Paris Agreement but the Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) already revealed, right ahead of the CoP that, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. the voluntary emission reduction pledges by the parties will only help achieve one third of what is envisioned in the Paris Agreement.

It is seen that most of the countries with a negligible individual share in the global Green House Gas (GHG) emission are facing the greatest threats caused by climate change. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) lamented the same on the 23rd CoP and pleaded with the top emitters to cut down emissions. Lamenting and pleading are the things they mostly do in such negotiations because they cannot pressurize the top emitters as it is those same top emitters from whom they are getting (also expecting more) technical and financial helps for mitigation and adaptation programs.

Mitigation or Adaptation?

Mitigation of climate change is far better than adaptation. Any life form in this earth except human beings can neither project the degree of change in future climate nor understand humans’ projection and get prepared for this change. Those species which can face the unprecedented change will persist and those which cannot will go extinct. Therefore, adaptation programs work well only for humans if at all. So mitigation should be of higher priority than the adaptation programs. Hence, the emissions should be so reduced so that there will be no further necessity of adaptation programs in the days ahead.

But how to reduce the emissions has become the main issue at the present. When the climate scientists already warned that climate change is a grave threat to human existence itself, isn’t it time to set appropriate Annual Emission Limits for each country ensuring that the temperature rise does not exceed the threatening level? The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be given the full authority over it and each country should abide by the guidelines developed by it. The population size of the country might become one of such bases for setting such limits.

Science proves that the climate change is very real and politicians still debate whether it is real or not. What a pity! This is exactly the opposite of what actually it should be. There should be no debate as if one accepts climate change or not because individual acceptance or denial does not stop the process of climate change in any manner.

Will Climate Funds Really Work?

These are so many funds established for the climate change mitigation and adaptation programs. The Adaptation Fund, the LDC Fund, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) are some of them. Let’s take an example of the REDD program which is supposed to receive payments, after 2020 AD based on the results presented, from the GCF. According to the Transparency International’s latest release, 87.5 per cent (56 of the 64 countries) partner countries of the UN-REDD program have a serious corruption problem, i.e. Corruption Perception Index (CPI) score of less than 50 out of 100. (2016 AD) Data is not available for 5 countries. Eighty-three percent of those countries (53 of the 64 countries) have CPI of less than the global average score of 43. So, will the REDD investment actually benefit the ground level, poor communities who are ignorant of this vast technical issue? Optimistically, there are safeguards. The better thing is there are seven of them. But, would the safeguards really work, should the countries be so corrupt? The corruption in these countries is so rampant because the people there are very good at outsmarting the policies. There is no assurance that the safeguards will be wisely adhered to.

Now, if paid for the results based payments, disparity increases within the country (as they are highly corrupt and the fund will mostly go to the hands of influential politicians and top-level bureaucrats) and if not paid for failing to meet the safeguards, the investment for the REDD readiness goes to waste, only increasing the country’s burden on climate budget. Those who will be able to present the convincing results will be paid and the others will be left behind, which increases the disparity between the countries again. But, a lot of scientific research needs to be done before jumping into the conclusions.

Hence, if obligatory Annual Emission Limits are set for each country based on scientific standards, no organism has to suffer from the impacts of climate change. Who suffers more and who suffers less will no more be an issue. It is difficult to understand why humans are creating the problem and making each innocent organism in the earth suffer?