REDD - hot topic for climate change

Friday, February 13, 2009

Climate change is not only occurring, it is accelerating. Deforestation accounts for almost 20 % of greenhouse gas emissions according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The United Nations Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries Programme (UN-REDD) seeks to reduce this figure by giving forests a monetary value based on their capacity to store carbon and thus reduce greenhouse gases. REDD may eventually lead to developed countries paying developing ones to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation. According to a UNEP press release: "The UN-REDD Programme is aimed at tipping the economic balance in favour of sustainable management of forests so that their formidable economic, environmental and social goods and services benefit countries, communities and forest users while also contributing to important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions". 1

While there is general agreement that deforestation must be reduced, the recent UN Framework Convention on Climate Change discussions in Poznan, Poland, highlighted numerous concerns, including the implications of REDD schemes for forest-dependent communities, many of which are indigenous.

For some observers REDD offers a better alternative than current forest use and management: "Unless a mechanism is put into place that makes forests worth more alive than dead, deforestation will continue until the world’s tropical forests are completely destroyed. (…) In the absence of large-scale incentives for conservation, an enormous number of the world's species of plants and animals and the resource base of millions of indigenous peoples and forest communities will ultimately go up in smoke".2

REDD could provide political and financial support to indigenous peoples if governments decide that local forestry practices contribute to storing carbon: "If instituted in a manner consistent with indigenous interests, reduced deforestation could help to protect the biodiversity of plants and animals, help to secure indigenous lands and livelihoods, and provide for the ongoing culture and community of indigenous and forest-dwelling peoples".3

But indigenous peoples and other observers have also expressed concern about possible negative impacts. If forests are given monetary value under REDD schemes, many fear that - where land tenure rights are unclear and decision-making remains top-down - new conflicts could arise among indigenous and local communities and between them and the state.4 REDD mechanisms might exclude local populations from implementation and benefit-sharing processes, and possibly even expel them from their own territories: "The increased monetary value placed on standing forest resources and new forest growth, opens the door for corruption in countries where this is already rife in the forest sector. Centralized planning (…) where the national government creates plans, receives payments and disburses the new funds only adds to the marginalisation of forest people".5

These concerns are reinforced by the difficulties experienced by indigenous peoples in accessing international climate change debates, even though many REDD projects will take place within indigenous territories. In the Poznan negotiations, "indigenous peoples were shocked to see the final version of the draft conclusions on 'REDD'. This Document removed any references to the rights of indigenous peoples and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples".6 Indigenous peoples and civil society representatives responded by declaring: "This is totally unacceptable (…) as the forests which are being targeted for REDD are those which indigenous peoples have sustained and protected for thousands of years".7

It is widely recognized that REDD "(…) could contribute to strengthening and formalising the international forest regime"8 and that this could represent "an opportunity to push for policy and legal reforms on forests and indigenous peoples' rights".9 However, there is also growing concern that indigenous peoples and local communities are "unlikely to benefit from REDD where: they do not own their lands; there is no culture of free, prior and informed consent; their identities are not recognised; or they have no space to participate in political processes".10

How do you think REDD might affect your community?
Will REDD create new opportunities or negative impacts?

Please send your views and comments to

Also continue to send us your observations on Topic 1: Early impacts of climate change and Topic 2: Adapting. Your inputs will appear on the Forum website immediately.

1 UNEP (24/09/2008)
2 Nepstad et al. 2008. Getting REDD Right. WHRC-ED-IPAM
3 Barnsley, I. 2008. REDD : A guide for Indigenous Peoples. UNU-IAS
4 Ravels, S. 2008. REDD myths: a critical review of proposed mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries. Friends of the Earth
5 Dooley et al. 2008. Cutting Corners: World Bank’s forest and carbon fund fails to forest and peoples. FERN-FPP
6 Press statement of Victoria Tauli-Corpuz on Human Rights Day
7 Indigenous peoples, local communities and NGOs outraged at the removal of rights from UNFCCC decision on REDD
8 Karsenty et al. 2008. Summary of the Proceedings of the International Workshop "The International Regime, Avoided Deforestation and the Evolution of Public and Private Policies Towards Forests in Developing Countries" held in Paris, 21-23rd November 2007
9 Global Indigenous Peoples Consultation on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) Baguio City, Philippines 12-14 November 2008
10 UNPFII-Statement Poznan

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