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Forest protection must be salvaged from troubled UN climate negotiations

25th November 2011

Forest protection presents a rare chance to make tangible progress on climate change in upcoming UN negotiations in Durban, Global Witness said today. While key players in the main talks are reportedly writing off chances of reaching a binding agreement until 2020, a pioneering scheme to protect forests and the people that live in them could start delivering very soon if delegates make the right decisions in Durban. To make this happen, rich countries must deliver the funds they have promised and delegates in South Africa must agree the right rules to govern the scheme.

In previous meetings the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) initiative, under negotiation since 2005, has been held hostage by blockages to the wider climate negotiations. All parties to the scheme must now pull together in one direction to ensure this does not happen again.

“It’s not all about Kyoto, and it’s not just about emissions: we must save forests too, and with political will in Durban we can. This conference could be the turning point that allows REDD+ to start saving forests and protecting the livelihoods of the billion people that depend on them,” said Davyth Stewart, campaigner for Global Witness. “The structure is in place – we need clarity on the financing and proper oversight structures, and then REDD+ can move ahead on the ground.”

Forests are key to climate protection because they store huge amounts of carbon dioxide and emit it when they’re destroyed. REDD+ involves paying developing countries to protect their forests, and could make a significant impact on slowing climate change, protecting the billion-plus mostly poor people who depend upon forests and providing an alternative path for sustainable development.

“There are already hundreds of pilot projects being tested on the ground, supported by national programmes in more than 25 developing countries,” said Stewart. “What’s needed now is the right kind of action at international level.”

Three key steps remain to finalise a REDD+ agreement and get it operational. Global Witness believes negotiators at Durban should be working to:

  • Ensure REDD+ funding prioritises intact natural forest protection and doesn’t subsidise ‘sustainable forest management’ projects which drive industrial logging further into forests;
  • Find the money needed, including looking at options on the table for innovative and predictable flows of finance, such as levies on shipping and aviation. This will create confidence for those implementing REDD+ to go ahead. Major donors such as the UK, Japan, the US and the European Commission need to make new pledges for ongoing money for REDD+;
  • Ensure that REDD+ projects are strictly monitored in each country making sure the money and the results are transparent, and that forest dwellers’ rights are protected. This will help ensure that forest protection efforts do no harm and work to enhance livelihoods, economic development and environmental protection.

/ENDS

Contacts:

S Africa: Chloe Fussell +44 (0)7790 464596, cfussell@globalwitness.org; Davyth Stewart +44 (0)7912 517146 dstewart@globalwitness.org

UK: Oliver Courtney +44 (0)7815 731889, ocourtney@globalwitness.org