Forestry and Poverty Newsletter – Copenhagen Edition – Issue 9, December 2009

Get REDD Right – Say “No to No Conversion”

A draft decision which has been circulated among some rich country delegations shows the ambition of Green NGOs and leading industrialized country delegations to use the climate change negotiating process to advance their agenda to curb forestry in developing countries.  

Their strategy is to accomplish this through Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).


REDD Is Not Settled

There seems to be effort among some international bodies to regard “REDD” as a done deal.   It is treated as a given that this will be an automatic inclusion in the communiqué to be adopted at this COP.

It is also widely asserted that once this occurs, a large amount of funding will flow to developing countries.

Neither of these contentions is correct.

There is no consensus on REDD.  Opinions differ greatly on what REDD should cover. At one extreme WWF, Greenpeace and the UK want REDD to be a compensation fund for ceasing deforestation in leading tropical forestry economies.  At the other end there are those who want REDD to support the entire range of forest-related activities cited in the Bali mandate and impose no conditions on funding.

These differences have existed from the time REDD was conceived before Bali and have widened since then.


The REDD “Silver Bullet” – A Blank

REDD was conceived as the “silver bullet” — the win/win solution to the problem of loss of economic activity from ending deforestation. Yet, this so-called bullet was the result of a poor application of “green” economics by World Bank economists [1].

The idea seemed simple enough: farm carbon instead of trees and earn replacement income by selling carbon credits from developing countries into a global emissions trading scheme. That it was so simple should have rung alarm bells within the World Bank. Buoyed by inflated “green” rhetoric, the Bank has funded development of “carbon farming.”

The bullet cannot fire – it is a blank.  There were serious enough doubts that global carbon credits would be tradeable.   Regulators warned they would be easy to scam.

The idea is wholly infeasible without a global trading system, and it is now crystal clear, no system is in prospect.

Furthermore, the EU, egged on by Greenpeace and WWF, does not want developing countries to generate and trade large numbers of credits.  It reduces the cost of mitigation in rich countries.   Environmental activists have ever only wanted financially painful, not cheap mitigation.

REDD – Now a Bribe?

So instead, the REDD funding mechanism has been reshaped by these NGOs and key donors like the British and the World Bank, as a means to leverage  developing countries to adopt commitments to reduce emissions.

World Bank policy on forestry has been aligned with WWF policy ever since James Wolfensohn blessed the formation of their Forestry Alliance.

The revised REDD idea in these quarters is that funding will be available to developing forested economies, provided they commit to cease conversion of forest land.

This was proposed during the climate change negotiations in Barcelona, but rejected by tropical forest nations.  It is back on the table in Copenhagen, albeit bracketed in the negotiating text.


“No Conversion” Means No Development

A draft of a conference decision circulated to selected delegations in Copenhagen has been published by The Guardian. It reflects the anti-development position.

Conversion of forestry is to cease, ideally in just over a decade. The text is set up to make the timetable for phase-out the question for negotiation, not the concept.

If developing countries accept “No Conversion” as a goal in a global program to tackle climate change, they will surrender their right to determine their development trajectories to others — big donors, NGOs, the World Bank and UN officials.

And they will give up a key source of economic growth.  Around 20 per cent of conversion of forestry results in very productive activity like forestry plantations, palm oil and other valuable commodity crops.  This contributes between 4 and 8 per cent of GDP in tropical developing economies.

If REDD is allowed to stop or curb conversion, then the leading strategy to raise living standards and even address the driver responsible for 60 to 70 per cent of deforestation – poverty, the lack of shelter, food and firewood – will be lost.


Say “No” To “No Conversion” And “Yes” To Forest & Plantation Carbon Sinks

Forested developing countries should reject the politically distorted way in which anti-forestry NGOs and large donors in Western countries see forestry and conservation in developing countries.

Once again, Europe is pronouncing, “Do as I say, not what I do”.

Not only should “No Conversion” be rejected, developing countries should insist the rules for measuring carbon sinks be revised so they fully reflect the scientific reality.

Current UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol rules severely discount the real and much larger role of forestry and plantations play in sequestering carbon.

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