Copenhagen - As the draft text on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) went to Ministers this morning at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen, several pivotal issues remained undecided. As it stands, an agreement to reduce deforestation in developing countries could be the strongest global measure ever enacted to protect the world's forests - or it could end up incentivizing their destruction.
"Time is running out for the world's forests, said Lars Lovold of Rainforest Foundation Norway. "The spotlight is now on politicians to build an alternative economic pathway to a future that includes standing natural forests and a stable climate."
A compromise text proposed by the REDD working group chair released late last evening contains some of the strongest provisions seen in the past two weeks, but four vital issues remain unresolved:
Financing: Countries must follow Norway's example and commit to adequate and sustainable funding for REDD start-up activities. "We can't run REDD on an honor code," said Dr. Rosalind Reeve of Global Witness. "Developed countries must kick-start this process and put money on the table now."
Lack of quantitative goals: Mid- and long-term targets to reduce and halt deforestation and forest degradation must be defined. "We're losing an acre of rainforest each second," said Alistair Graham of Humane Society International. "For countries to take REDD seriously, we need to halt emissions, retain forest carbon stocks and end gross deforestation by 2020."
Implement safeguards: Safeguards must be monitored and reported to ensure that indigenous peoples' rights and forests are protected and forest governance is transparent and effective. "Implementation of the safeguards is absolutely crucial to ensure the long-term protection of the world's rainforests," said Virginia Young of the Wilderness Society.
Avoid leakage: Negotiators must remove references in the text to "subnational" strategies where countries could receive REDD funds for avoiding deforestation in one region while logging in another. "REDD rules must not create a loophole that allows countries to be paid for reducing emissions in one place whilst destroying ecosystems somewhere else," said Susanna Tol of Wetlands International.
Targets for deforestation have disappeared in the text sent to Ministers today. Targets in an earlier version aimed to cut deforestation by 50% by 2020 and eliminate it by 2030.
The current text includes, for the first time, provisions to account for the protection and restoration of all carbon stocks, including peat soils, which account for 6% of all global C02 emissions. However, it still lacks language requiring all parties, not just developing countries, to address the social and economic forces driving international demand for products which results in deforestation.
REDD funds are designed to help developing countries protect their remaining forests and cut the approximately 20% percent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by deforestation, forest degradation and peat soil destruction. An estimated €15-25bn will be needed from 2010-15 to support preparatory activities for REDD implementation; though some say this figure is too low.
No matter what the shape of the final deal is, REDD must go hand in hand with deep cuts in industrial emissions if the world's tropical forests have any chance of surviving climate change, said the ECA. "What good is icing without the cake? If we are really serious about protecting forests and reducing emissions from deforestation, REDD must be part of a fair, ambitious and legally binding climate agreement," said Bill Barclay of Rainforest Action Network.
More about the Ecosystems Climate Alliance.