Press Release / Dec. 2, 2010

Proposed forest protection deal hinges on transparency and safeguards

A proposed deal to protect the world's forests will only work if it is based on financial transparency, accountability and civil society participation, warned Global Witness today. A focal point of the international climate talks currently underway in Cancun, the scheme involves payments to compensate developing countries for preserving their forests. But unless its design and implementation reflect the interests of all stakeholders and include proper safeguards against corruption, there is no guarantee it will achieve its objectives to halt deforestation and reduce forest degradation.

"This is an unprecedented opportunity to protect the world's natural forests and thereby reduce carbon emissions, but we must get the rules right" said Gavin Hayman, Director of Campaigns at Global Witness. "A bad deal could prove disastrous, and inadvertently undermine attempts to protect the world’s last remaining natural forests."

Logging and land clearing release huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more than the entire global transport sector every year. Hopes for a deal to halt this trend centre on a proposed system to compensate developing countries for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). The right agreement could form a building block for further agreement among the 192 nations gathered in Cancun to reach a deal on fighting climate change.

However, the risk of striking a counterproductive agreement is very real. Past attempts to tackle forest loss in developing countries have mostly failed, undermined by policy failures, weak governance and perverse incentives which are susceptible to abuse by vested interests.

The proposed mechanism already has a pot of US$4.1 billion pledged by developed country governments as fast-start financing to assist developing countries get “ready” for the proposed new mechanism. The challenge will be to ensure this taxpayers’ money reaches people on the ground, and is shared fairly. To achieve this, the deal must:

  • Assess and, when necessary, build and monitor governance capacities of recipient countries before providing funds;
  • Ensure transparency of money flows to prevent funds being lost to corruption;
  • Ensure full participation of stakeholders including civil society in REDD’s design and implementation;
  • Prioritise environmental benefits and the protection of natural forests;
  • Avoid perverse incentives that could reward industrial logging of natural forests.

“This is a critical point in the fight to slow deforestation and reduce global carbon emissions”, said Hayman. “If we are to protect forests for the future we must learn the lessons of the past. This means implementing a system which encourages the protection of natural forests and includes effective safeguards against corruption and abuse by vested interests.

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Contact: In Cancun: Davyth Stewart (+ 52 1 998 1488469, +44 7912517147); In London: Oliver Courtney +44 (0)7815 731889 [email protected]