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Historical archive

Redd comes with risks but there is no other choice than to try

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of the Environment

By rewarding transparency and accuracy, we can make the UN's forest protection scheme work

On Monday, October 5th the Guardian warned us that the international efforts to reward developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, also known as REDD, could be “a recipe for corruption and will be hijacked by organized crime without safeguards.”

This article has been published in the Guradian in a edited version

On Monday, October 5th the Guardian warned us that the international efforts to reward developing countries for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, also known as REDD, could be “a recipe for corruption and will be hijacked by organized crime without safeguards.”

The Norwegian Government, the largest financial contributor to international REDD-efforts, is well aware of the risks of REDD. Still, we have no choice but to act. The destruction of forests emits more greenhouse gases than the entire EU, or 17% of the annual global total. More than one third of the cost effective 2020 emission reduction potential can probably be found in developing countries’ forest sectors. If done right REDD could, moreover, be a catalyst for improved forest governance in general, yield important support to local communities and indigenous peoples, protect biodiversity and water resources, and help countries adapt to climate change.

Developing forest countries are willing to act. Developed countries need to support them. Limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, a goal that is accepted by most countries, is achievable, but only if we get at the REDD potential. If we do not, dangerous climate change is highly probable. The question, then, is not whether to do REDD, but how.

The case of Brazil is encouraging. So far, Brazil has reduced deforestation by more than half since 2005. The introduction of a publically available satellite system makes the authorities capable of detecting illegal logging activities as they happen. The data is publicly available. The government’s offensive has led to more than 700 arrests, among them many corrupt public servants, and 1.4 million cubic meters of illegal timber confiscated. Brazil has set up the Amazon Fund – a results based fund administered in a transparent and inclusive manner by the Brazilian development bank – through which to channel external support. Norway has committed up to 1 billion dollars by 2015, given adequate results.

We’re working with Guyana – a country that faces very different challenges – to design an approach appropriate for that country.  Working together, Guyana and Norway identified country ownership, transparency and verifiability of results and financial flows, as well as a focus on improved governance and low carbon growth, as crucial principles necessary to make REDD work.

Based on these and other real life experiences – including those provided by multilateral efforts through the UN system and the World Bank – Norway has proposed a REDD mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that we believe would g a long way in reducing the risks we all agree are real.

First, a phased approach: Countries would initially receive some financial support to develop national REDD strategies, put in place environmental and social safeguards, and develop credible systems both to monitor results and to handle financial flows in a transparent manner, including robust anti-corruption measures. Only when this hurdle is passed would they be eligible for large scale payments for results.

Second, REDD should be accounted for at the country, rather than project, level.  Many of the issues pointed out in the Guardian article we believe are exacerbated by the pure, poorly regulated project approach that article sketches. A national level approach would be better positioned to opportunities to exploit the system, and to hold governments accountable for both emission reductions and negative side-effects. It would also avoid rewarding conservation in one area while deforesting activities move next door (‘leakage’). To avoid leakage internationally, the mechanism must provide sufficient incentives to motivate most tropical forest countries to join.

Third, large scale REDD payments would be based on real emission reductions, and increase with the accuracy of measurements. This would provide an incentive both to rapidly develop monitoring capabilities and to address the forest governance problems that, if unresolved, would limit countries ability to achieve results and corresponding payments. Meanwhile, developed countries would verifiably get what they paid for.

There is still more carbon in forests than in the atmosphere, and we have no alternative but to try to keep it there. Being aware of the challenges and risks make them easier to address. I have no illusions this will be easy. However, there is no business as usual: Either we deal with this together, or the battle against climate change will be lost.

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