To adapt, to mitigate or both alike? Congo Basin forests in a policy dilemma
YAOUNDE, Cameroon (24 May, 2011)_Bringing together researchers, policymakers, civil society and practitioners on development issues is quite challenging. Particularly more challenging is policy response towards climate change adaptation and mitigation in Congo Basin forests.
One thing that is apparent in all six Congo Basin countries is their profound interest in the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) mechanism. This is evident in their preparation of the readiness-plain idea note (R-PIN) for funding opportunities from the World Bank, national and regional dialogues on REDD+. As members of the Least Developed Countries under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a number of these countries are required to produce national adaptation plan of actions (NAPAs) due to the vulnerability of the region to climate impacts.
However, it seems that adaptation remains a priority for the region while climate change mitigation through the REDD+ mechanism is only an opportunity. There is a policy dilemma for stakeholders of the Congo Basin forests over how to balance a priority for adaptation while still focusing time and resources on the opportunities mitigation offers to curb climate change.
If policy chooses to focus on adaptation alone due to the vulnerability of the people and economies to climate impacts, then countries could miss out on the opportunity to be financially compensated for carbon conservation as well as the opportunity to contribute to the global mitigation effort. In the same vein, if regions prefer to support mitigatation alone, then it does not address the vulnerability (or even adaptive capacity) of about 70 million resource-dependent rural populations to climate impacts.
The seemingly viable option is to engage in both adaptation and mitigation strategies or the future of the Congo Basin’s climate-sensitive sectors of economic importance under climate change may become bleak. But that itself presents another dilemma: whether adaptation and mitigation in the forest sector should be separated or integrated in a synergetic relationship.
Whatever direction the actors and stakeholders take on how to respond to climate change in the Congo Basin, there are implications for policy design such as how the management of the forest resources for poverty reduction may change, economic development and biodiversity conservation goals of West African countries, including policy debate for local access and sustainable use of the forests.
Olufunso Somorin works within CIFOR’s Forest and Governance Programme as an associate professional officer in the Central African Regional Office based in Yaoundé, Cameroon. His research includes policy discourses, institutions, agency and governance of climate change adaptation and mitigation in the forest sector.