How important are forests for reversing climate change?
Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 17 percent of carbon emissions, more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector. It is now clear that in order to constrain the impacts of climate change within limits that society will reasonably be able to tolerate, global average temperatures must be stabilized within two degrees Celsius. This will be practically impossible to achieve without reducing emissions from the forest sector, in addition to other mitigation actions.
What are REDD and REDD Plus?
Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is a mechanism developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It creates a financial value for the carbon stored in forests by offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. Developing countries would receive results-based payments for results-based actions.
REDD+ goes beyond simply deforestation and forest degradation and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.It stresses on involvement of indigenous people.
Where is the first REDD Plus project in India and what are its objectives?
The first REDD Plus project in India is in the Khasi Hills Community REDD+ Project is situated in the East Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, India. It engages ten indigenous Khasi governments (hima) with 62 villages. The area was chosen on the grounds of established Khasi traditions of forest conservation and legal right for natural resource management.
This REDD+ project aims to slow, halt and reverse the loss of community forests by providing support, new technologies and financial incentives to conserve existing forests and regenerate degraded forests. The project intervention area is a global biodiversity hotspot, providing habitat to many endangered species.
Another primary objective of the project is to deliver long-term strategies to address extreme poverty facing rural families and is involved in the establishment of women-run microfinance institutions. The Khasi Hills Community Carbon project aims to reduce deforestation and restore forests at the same time. It does so by attacking the area’s root causes of deforestation.
How is the performance of REDD Plus in India?
REDD+ was formalised to incentivise forest conservation in tropical developing countries by providing them funds and allowing them to sell carbon credits to the developed countries.
The project encourages local communities to sell carbon credits, these being a tradable certificate or permit representing the right to emit one tonne of carbon dioxide or the equivalent amount of a different greenhouse gas. The indigenous communities can earn credits by not cutting trees for fuel, and trading the credits they have earned, on the carbon stock exchange.
But carbon credits were not fetching an optimum value in the market and were being sold at much cheaper rate than what was affordable to these indigenous communities for the given expenditure they need to make.
Also, the carbon revenue, thus earned, was inconsistent and unpredictable, affecting the long-term project sustainability.
Global Carbon market is thus failing to materialise and doubts prevail over international REDD+ finance commitments.
Report says that the performance is not on par with promise. One of the reasons is lower funding than promised. The finance provided is much lower than the estimated costs — conservative estimates suggested $5 billion annually but actual flow averaged just $796 million from 2010-2014.
Experts say that a market-based approach cannot work and we have to ensure that REDD+ is a fund-based mechanism — partnership between community, national governments and bilateral as well as multilateral funding.
There were leakages too. For example, in East Khasi Hills of North-east India the REDD+ project involved making people not to cut wood to use it as cooking fuel. In absence of alternatives, there were leakages. Communities were getting fuel wood from the non-project forest area to meet daily needs.