Shades of REDD: From Kyoto to Cancún

December 14, 2010
By Luc Heuer

The contentious REDD proposal – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation – has emerged from the UN Cancún Climate talks to be both lauded and criticised. REDD is backed by a diverse group of government, industry, and conservation leaders eager to slow down the deforestation that is estimated to account for one fifth of carbon dioxide escaping into the atmosphere. Robert Zoellick of the World Bank called the proposal, “one of the best chances we have, maybe one of the last chances we have, to really save our rich biodiversity.”

Opponents claim the REDD solution does not address the drivers of deforestation and allows polluters to buy their way out of binding agreements on CO2 emissions through carbon offsets or forest conservation stocks bought to sequester CO2 emissions.

The evolving concept of the REDD program was first introduced in 1997 under the umbrella of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding climate change agreement for industrialized nations. All parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the 37 industrialized nations involved, agreed that drastic cuts in deforestation, mostly in developing countries, was critical to combating climate change. By 2007 the UN Bali Action Plan stated: “Parties should collectively aim at halting forest cover loss in developing countries by 2030 at the latest and reducing gross deforestation by at least 50% by 2020.”

Dividing the consensus for action was a disagreement in methodology, namely the financing of the REDD. Whether it was to be financed via government to government capacity building, UN funds, or by market funding and carbon offsets, remained to be seen.

This all changed with the controversial Copenhagen Accord, pushed through during the last moments of the 2009 conference. The Accord specifies the funding options: “We decide to pursue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of, and to promote mitigation actions.” (Article 7) REDD’s evolution into a market based carbon offset system coincided with hitherto absent support from the United States.

Many indigenous groups and environmental NGO’s continue to oppose a market based version of the REDD agreement, saying it would allow companies to continue unimpeded polluting by purchasing stocks of forest carbon sinks. One such opponent of REDD is Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Fund. “REDD is being pushed by the U.S. as a way for industries to avoid cutting emissions at the source,” Anne said in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman. “Industry is everywhere, environmental NGO’s are being increasingly marginalized, shut out, and ignored,” she added.

As REDD has evolved the ideologically gap surrounding climate change has widened. When asked about REDD at the Cancun talks Ecuadorian president Rafeal Corea said almost apologetically, “The market is a reality,” voicing the opinion of REDD supporters that this may be the only pragmatic solution. Those marching in the streets of Cancun were not persuaded. The international peasant farmer movement La Via Campesino mobilized a demonstration outside the police barriers. They claimed they were being sold false solutions. The march was attended by Bolivian ambassador to the UN, Pablo Solón, and Paraguayan delegate Miguel Lovera who said, “We need to reduce consumption, diminish greed and stop wasting the resources that are necessary for us all to live well, in order to revert the environmental crisis.”

References:

Copenhagen Accord. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 2009

Goodman, Amy. Democracy Now. 2010

Damien Carrington. Wikileaks Cables Reveal How U.S. Manipulated Climate Accord. The Guardian. Friday 3 December 2010

Kyoto Protocol. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. 1997

La Via Campesina. International Peasant Movement. www.viacampesina.org. 2010

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