India seeks global fund to help Third World expand forest cover
NEW DELHI: India seized the opportunity accorded by the Oslo Conference on Climate and Forests to make a case for a global fund to aid developing countries increase their forest cover. New Delhi maintains that it is not enough to provide compensation and incentives for avoiding deforestation and degradation of forests.
Instead, a comprehensive framework should have positive incentives for afforestation and reforestation and sustainable forest management or the REDD plus approach. The Oslo meet seeks to arrive at an interim partnership arrangement for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries.
India has said that the Oslo partnership must put REDD and other ‘plus’ activities on the same footing, as envisaged in the Bali Action Plan. The focus at Oslo is on avoided deforestation. At stake is a $3.5-billion global fund being mobilised for the purpose. The fund was announced at the Copenhagen summit. India doesn’t stand to gain from this REDD fund. Countries with tropical forests and high rates of deforestation like Brazil and Indonesia, Gabon and Papua New Guinea have a greater claim on the financial incentives and compensation.
Presenting India’s position in Oslo, environment secretary Vijai Sharma said: “India believes REDD needs to be seen in the broader context of REDD+. The reduction of deforestation and conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks should be treated at par. Fairness requires that a unit of carbon saved should be treated the same as a unit of carbon added.”
New Delhi maintains that there is a need to look beyond avoided deforestation and degradation and must incentivise efforts at increasing forest cover and sustainable forest management. This is the REDD plus approach. “We have stressed that REDD and REDD plus are two sides of the same mitigation coin and India’s focus is on REDD plus,” environment minister Jairam Ramesh said.
In December 2008, India made a formal submission on a potential conceptual framework for such an agreement as part of the UNFCCC process. On this count, India’s position is mirrored by China. Both countries have been adding to their forest cover — China has an aggressive afforestation programme, as part of the actions it has submitted under the Copenhagen Accord. Beijing has said it will increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels.
Climate experts have said a major drawback of India’s approach is the lack of knowledge compared to the REDD. To fill the gap, the government has set up a technical group to develop methods and procedures to make assessment and monitoring of REDD plus actions. It is also planning a national REDD plus Coordinating Agency.
India has also finalised a draft proposal document for the National Mission for a Green India. The mission targets to take up 20 million hectares for afforestation/eco-restoration over the next 10 years. This is double the current target of 10 million hectares. This would mean an increase in the greenhouse gas removals by India’s forests to 6.35% of India’s annual total GHG emissions by 2020, leading to additional carbon sequestration of 43 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent annually by the year 2020.