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Urgent Action Needed On Climate-Forestry Research

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August 26, 2010
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Urgent Action Needed On Climate-Forestry Research


Forestry scientists need to think big, act fast and communicate better if their work is to have an impact on global climate change negotiations, CIFOR Director General Frances Seymour said in a keynote address at an international forestry conference.

“We’ve got get out there in climate-related policy arenas and practitioner communities and push the research results that we already have in hand,” she said at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations’ World Congress in Seoul on August 24, which was attended by about 3,000 scientists and other experts from around the world.

Scientists estimate that deforestation and forest degradation account for between 12 to 18 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, studies have shown that healthy forests have the potential to absorb about 15 percent of mankind’s carbon emissions.

While deforestation and forest degradation are a loss in the fight against climate change, forest conservation and expansion offer positive opportunities. That is why there is so much interest in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation – REDD – which has the potential to deliver large cuts in carbon emissions at a low cost.

Ms Seymour said that new research on REDD needs to focus on empirical analysis of what actually happens as REDD policies and projects move from ideas to implementation on the ground. She said it was crucial for the research community to quickly learn how REDD policies and programs can reduce emissions while also being equitable.

“Under what conditions, if any, can policies and programs to promote forest-related climate adaptation strategies be effective in promoting local and societal resilience, while also being equitable in the distribution of costs and benefits across different stakeholder groups,” she said.

“In the new context of climate change, we need to understand the institutions and governance mechanisms needed to underpin solutions that yield effective, efficient, and equitable outcomes. How can REDD and adaptation schemes find the optimal position between centralized and decentralized approaches?  How do local property rights and other institutional variables influence their effectiveness? What are the actual impacts of forest adaptation and mitigation policies and projects on the rights and livelihoods of forest communities, and how can synergies be maximized and trade-offs reduced?”

Ms Seymour’s message of urgency was reinforced by Jan McAlpine, Director of the U.N. Forum on Forests. She told delegates that the world’s forests “contain two-thirds of Earth’s known terrestrial species. They provide protection against degradation of land and desertification from climate change. They provide income for hundreds of millions of people across the globe."

Eduardo Rojas Briales, assistant director-general at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Forestry Department, said at the conference, “The world will not be able to meet the challenge of climate change without putting forests at the centre of climate change policy.”

Still, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, in an opening address to the meeting, said that based on his country’s experience with reforestation programs, he is optimistic for the future.

“Since we announced our Green Growth program in Korea, jobs have increase three-fold in the green industry and profits have also tripled,” he said. “Each year, 50,000 new jobs are created.”


Read Ms. Seymour’s speech.
Follow CIFOR’s blog from the IUFRO conference.
Go to the conference website.


Extpub | by Dr. Radut