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Going from Red to Green; the landscape approach

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Issue date: 
January 8, 2013
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The UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar left key advocates red in the face due to the inability to agree on the verification of emission reductions required to advance implementation of REDD+. But a more integrated green sector approach, supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Trees, Forests, and Agroforestry and its partners, may well give REDD+, forests, and agriculture a bigger seat at the table for the next international treaty on climate change in 2015 – and produce more substantial results.

REDD+ is an international initiative designed to Reduce carbon Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. The “plus” comes from an additional focus on fostering forest conservation, sustainable forest management, and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks. It is housed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and discussed in international forums, like the Doha conference. The aim of REDD+ is to mitigate the effects of climate change by financially rewarding developing countries to preserve their forests and the carbon stored within them.

Headway was made at the UN climate talks in Doha regarding how countries measure carbon emission levels and their reductions. But an impasse occurred between developed and developing country representatives over how to verify and recompense reductions.

The disappointment of Doha, however, may make way for even greater possibilities over the longer term.

The pledge on the part of 195 countries to negotiate a new international climate treaty is offering a key opportunity for a new, more integrated approach. Known as the Durban Platform, because it stems from the 2011 UN climate conference in Durban, South Africa, the agreement aims to commit participating countries to new greenhouse gas reduction targets by 2015, and to meet those targets by 2020.

Workgroup discussions of the platform taking place in the coming months provide a framework for injecting a cross-sectorial approach to reducing carbon emissions while also addressing impacts on food security and livelihoods. Forests and REDD+ are expected to be an integral part of the new climate treaty. But the goal of CGIAR researchers and partners is to push beyond the trees and forests to include the full landscape of agriculture, land uses, and the people who depend on them.

Agriculture supports more than one million rural poor, and generates $250 billion in income. But it also is linked to 80% of deforestation and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. A more unified landscape approach can better measure tradeoffs between issues such as food security, energy needs, income generation, and the preservation of natural resources, such as forests, water supplies, and biodiversity. It can help better identify and implement climate change mitigation efforts so that agriculture, forest management, and land use are not only part of the problem, but also part of the solution. And it integrates how social and economic considerations fit in as well.

As Ravi Pabhu from the World Agroforestry Center (a member of the CGIAR Consortium) describes it, when analyzing carbon emissions and resource management, scientists cannot just look at trees and forests. They must consider the full mosaic of farms, livestock, trees, shrubbery, forests, rivers, and roads in which people function.  “They don’t live under a tree,” he notes, “they live in an integrated landscape.

The landscape management approach promulgated by CGIAR research partners takes a long-term perspective and zooms out to look at issues from a large, spatial scale. This broad view requires new thinking and cross-sector collaboration to better understand options, competing demands, and interconnections that affect the use and management of natural resources on a big level. It requires new types of networks, best practices, and demonstrations of how large-scale initiatives can deliver more sustainable solutions.

Members of the Global Forest Expert Panel on biodiversity, forest management, and REDD+ presented seven key findings of new report at Doha, which stress the need for reconciling social, economic, and environmental considerations early in the process of planning and implementation. The results argue for the need to bring together climate change and biodiversity preservations, and to integrate poverty alleviation and food security considerations in the process.

REDD+ was seen as a new opportunity to discuss a cross-sector approach to aligning development and poverty reduction imperatives while sustaining landscapes and reducing emissions.

The integrated landscape approach to climate change mitigation is gaining momentum. It received a great deal of attention during the highly attended Forest Day 6 in Doha. There was much focus on the need for more holistic and interdisciplinary approaches, not only for REDD+ implementation and policies, but also for related research. Participants discussed the potential of advances in education, technologies, and information sharing to meet the challenges of operating on such a complex scale.

CIFOR (a member of the CGIAR Consortium) has identified a set of 10 guiding principles for the new landscape approach, which stress the need for stronger connections and integration of research across the agricultural, forestry, energy, and fishery sectors. The principles were recognized by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Hyderabad, India, this past October.

Hope is high that a unified approach for managing landscapes, promoting food security, and protecting natural resources will make it on the UN climate change agenda – and that forests, agriculture, and people will be at the forefront of change.

We have a few years to provide new thinking, research, and analyses from the side of the green sectors, to show how these fit into the climate change challenge and what solutions may look like,” says Peter Holmgren, CIFOR’s Director General in his most recent blog.  “Developing an understanding of a landscape approach will be central in this effort,” he concludes.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut