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Carbon market financing biggest factor to determine REDD+ success, says expert

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17 November, 2011
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The decision to finance Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, or REDD+, through the carbon market is the biggest factor that will determine the success of the global scheme that aims to slow the rate of climate change, said an expert.

“Like it or not, if we expect real climate gains from REDD, it means a carbon market,” said Andrea Tuttle, a director at the Pacific Forest Trust, at a plenary session at the second Asia Pacific Forestry Week in Beijing recently. Bilateral and multilateral funding that has been flowing thus far would not be enough to push REDD+ to the scale it needed to result in a significant reduction of emissions, she said.

About US 5.5 billion has already been committed by countries including Norway and Australia, as well as multilateral agencies to fund the preparation and implementation of REDD+ in developing countries. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has estimated between US 17-30 billion a year is needed to half the current rate of deforestation by 2020 to prevent the world’s temperature from rising to dangerous levels.

Negotiators in Cancun last year agreed to include REDD+ in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The big question that will dominate the next round of talks in Durban, South Africa, later this month is what will happen to the Kyoto Protocol, a climate agreement that will expire in 2012, said Andrea. “Are we going just to extend the existing text two more years…or are we going to let it die?”

Without an overarching international agreement that binds countries to certain emission cut targets, like Kyoto Protocol, there will not be enough demand for carbon credits to allow REDD+ to really take flight, some experts have said. Still, countries that have made the preparations for REDD+, such as drafting supporting regulations, may benefit from voluntary carbon markets and others that may sprung up later, said Andrea.

The California carbon market, for example, may allow companies to buy forest credits from outside the U.S. starting 2015, said Andrea. California last month approved North America’s first mandatory cap-and-trade emissions scheme, which will go into effect in 2013. According to media reports, the European emission trading scheme and four Canadian provinces are considering to link to California carbon market.

REDD+ won’t work unless the world stops looking for cheap and easy solutions to keep driving SUVs and continue energy and resource-intensive consumption, said Sunita Narain, a director at the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment. “Our forests are not carbon sticks but habitats for people,” she said. “Forests are not cheap offsets.”

The Ecosystem Marketplace reported that 30.1 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent was contracted across the carbon markets last year with a total estimated value of $178 million. Average price in primary forest carbon markets rose by 22 percent to an average of $5.5/ton in 2010 from $4.5/ton the year previous year, it said.

Although the transaction figures represent a record, these are minuscule compared with what forests contribute. Forests remove 2.4 billion tons of carbon per year, or one third of current annual emissions from the use of fossil fuel, from the atmosphere, according to a research published in August in the journal Science. Deforestation emitted 2.9 billion tonnes of carbon per year, the research said, underscoring the urgency to slow the rate of deforestation and forest degradation.

Many people involved in the negotiations, including Antonio La Viña, who facilitates REDD+ talks in the U.N. climate summits, hope that a decision on REDD+ financing will be reached at the upcoming UN climate change conference in Durban.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut