Some thoughts on REDD
Posted by NYCA Blogger on September 30, 2009
Rishi, blogging from Bangkok
Forests clearly have to be saved. There is no doubt in that. There is also no doubt that controlling degradation and deforestation will aid in reducing emissions and contribute to the goals of the convention. But this cannot be the focus of mitigation efforts. We must not see forests in developing countries only through the lenses of mitigation. Rather, mitigation needs to be a co benefit of saving forests to promote sustainable development in developing countries. Countries have gotten excited at the prospect of receiving cash flows from REDD credits. Though this prospect maybe exciting to developing countries as this can potentially unleash a large pool of funds, REDD must not wheedle out attention of the developing countries to push for mitigation from developed countries’ side.
Nepal has made significant progress in community forestry. While the efforts of the local communities in managing forests must be lauded, we must also think about what made this possible. One of the major factors allowing this to happen was through the weak enforcement of regulations in government protected forest areas. Significant leakage took place and this has not been accounted for. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that the weak enforcement measures from the government’s side is allowing people to degrade and deforest government forest so that community forests stay protected.
Now the question is, if we have a REDD mechanism and the strict enforcement that comes with such a regime to ensure permanence of stored carbon and minimization of leakage, how will this affect the people who were relying on leakage that is happening for ecosystem services? Are we going to choke off livelihood space if we impose REDD throughout the country?
How can we encourage alternative livelihoods? How much money will we even get? Based on very basic back of the envelope calculations, one hectare of forest per year will capture around 7 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. Selling this in the offset market based on CDM prices would fetch around 11 dollars per ton thereby giving us 77 dollars. Is this less than say a monoculture harvest that could take place say from bamboos? This comes to the forefront if we look at the verification costs and other transaction costs involved. Will this be enough money? What about after taking into account the risks associated with the price of carbon in the international market?
Something that is more fundamental is that if we allow all of the REDD credits to come to the market, we will be reducing the global price of carbon and that means there’s minimal penalty for pursuing carbon intensive growth paths. This is going to reinforce the status quo and won’t bring a paradigmatic shift to low carbon growth paths at all. It is necessary to make sure that these carbon offsets thus used need to be additional to the mitigation targets and must not substitute Annex 1 countries from taking stronger measures.
I have been following REDD at the Bangkok talks. I will write more entries that are targeted at the negotiations going on.