Rainforest Roulette? – new briefing on REDD and markets from Rainforest Foundation UK

By Chris Lang, August 29, 2012.  Source: redd-monitor

A new briefing by the Rainforest Foundation UK argues against creating an international carbon market to finance REDD. The briefing is released just before a UN meeting in Bangkok, that will discuss potential options for financing REDD.

The policy briefing, which is available below, is structured around five main critiques of trading forest carbon:

1. It is highly questionable whether a forest carbon market will reduce the cost of tackling climate change or generate billions for forest protection.

2. The proposed forest carbon market is distorting ‘readiness’ preparations for REDD so that they are more focused on creating a tradable asset than outcomes that are beneficial for forests, forest peoples and biodiversity.

3. The ownership of forest carbon – the underlying asset of the proposed market – is contested and unclear, and its trade is particularly susceptible to fraud.

4. Potential REDD emissions reductions credits may not represent genuine reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, due to inflated baselines and leakage. Trading them in an offset market could lead to increased total global carbon emissions, and prolong existing heavily polluting activities.

5. Alternative financing options and approaches exist and are viable.

The briefing “warmly welcomes” the fact that governments and high-level decision-makers are increasingly recognising the importance of tropical rainforests and that, “they have begun, albeit patchily, to take action to reduce the level of forest destruction.” However, relying on carbon trading to finance REDD, “is likely to be costly, inefficient and may be counter-productive”. Rather than relying on REDD to address climate change, the briefing recommends turning to the source of the problems, by:

reducing greenhouse gases in industrialised countries; tackling unsustainable consumption and the drivers of deforestation in the global north and south; and focusing on enablers like equitable land tenure, good governance, full and effective participation and the respect of forest peoples’ rights.

Below is Rainforest Foundation UK’s press release about the briefing:

‘Rainforest Roulette’?: Carbon markets might do more harm than good for efforts to tackle deforestation and climate change

Rainforest Foundation UK Press release, 28 August 2012

London – Using markets to try and keep carbon stored in the world’s forests might be a dangerous mistake, according to a new report published by the Rainforest Foundation UK today[1], as governments prepare to meet later this week for a new round of negotiations on funding for climate mitigation, including for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (‘REDD’)[2].

Key findings of the report are that:

    • A forest carbon market may increase rather than reduce the cost of tackling climate change;
    • Legal reform under REDD tends to favour carbon traders and not forest communities;
    • Ownership of the carbon stored in forests is contested, unclear and susceptible to fraud;
    • A forest carbon market might not reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to major design loopholes;
    • Alternative, more cost-effective, ways of reducing deforestation, and for raising the necessary funds, exist and are viable.

“Instead of protecting forests, the use of carbon markets will mostly protect the interests of heavily polluting companies, which would be able to carry on polluting, whilst their payments to offset emissions in poor tropical forest countries will probably be very inefficient and ineffective,” said Simon Counsell, Executive Director of the Rainforest Foundation UK and one of the authors of the report.

UN negotiations taking place in Bangkok from August 30th aim to agree on a global mechanism to finance the protection of forests in poor countries. Many governments and the private sector favour the use of carbon markets[3]. The authors compare this potential decision to betting the future of the rainforest on a game of roulette.

“With the global carbon markets already in crisis, and after a number of high-profile scams involving forest carbon, choosing the market-based approach would be a very risky bet for protecting forests, when there are viable alternatives on the table”, said Nathaniel Dyer, Policy Advisor for the Rainforest Foundation UK.

The report suggests that efforts to restrict imports of illegal timber, improvements in forest governance, and giving recognition to the land rights of people living in the forests, would be more successful.

Simon Counsell: simonc@rainforestuk.org
Nathaniel Dyer: natd@rainforestuk.org
RFUK office: 020 7485 0193

You  can download the briefing here:  Rainforest Roulette

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