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.“
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.