Features & Commentary
Making REDD+ Work for Biodiversity and Livelihoods
UN-REDD Programme officers, Wahida Patwa-Shah and Julie Greenwalt, highlight what REDD+ efforts need to do in order to protect the multitude of social and economic benefits derived from biodiversity and ecosystem services. (With contributions from Lera Miles)
|Credits: Biosphoto – Montford Thierry
The International Year of Biodiversity (2010) reminds us of the long history and struggle for biodiversity conservation, and the need to recognize the significance of ecosystem services for human well being. From biologists and conservationists, to public health experts, and economists, experts from a variety of backgrounds and sectors around the world have been demonstrating through their research how and why ecosystem services and biodiversity impact human health, economic activities and ecosystem health.
Among many other roles, tropical and subtropical forests store more carbon than any other biome--an estimated 550 gigatonnes. Long before climate change took the centre stage, forests have been providing innumerable benefits for humans and a multitude of other species. While a focus on the threat posed by climate change has brought carbon to the forefront, the need to conserve biodiversity remains critical. Carbon payments associated with REDD+ provides an opportunity as well as a challenge for biodiversity conservation.
Biodiversity can benefit from REDD+
There has been concern that a win for carbon will mean a loss for biodiversity and other ecosystem services. However, the relationship between carbon and biodiversity goals can be more symbiotic. With the right tools and safeguards for identifying, managing and monitoring biodiversity and other ecosystem benefits, REDD+ will mitigate climate change by reducing emissions and produce multiple benefits by keeping forest habitats intact.
There is a need to monitor policies that increase carbon sequestration by forests at the expense of biodiversity, or where the protection of high-carbon forests may displace conversion pressures onto low-carbon forests and other ecosystems. At different scales, countries and communities implementing REDD+ will need to assess which ecosystem services they are able to maintain and enhance by analyzing and addressing trade-offs.
Ensuring the conservation of biodiversity while taking the necessary steps for REDD+ will need to be planned and programmed and will require continued research to better understand the range of goods and services provided by forest ecosystems, and their relationship with carbon. It will require increased collaboration between technical experts, government practitioners and negotiators from the biodiversity and climate change fields. This month, a workshop in Nairobi hosted by the CBD and co-organized by the UN-REDD Programme, entitled “The Global Expert Workshop on Biodiversity Benefits of REDD+”, provided an opportunity for collaboration and discussion. In October, the CBD COP 10 in Nagoya will provide further opportunities for discussion, improved understanding and identification of challenges. In Nagoya, the “REDD+ Hour” workshop series, organized by the UN-REDD Programme in collaboration with multiple partners, will focus on a range of relevant topics including: monitoring carbon and biodiversity, traditional knowledge, empowerment of the biodiversity community in the REDD+ process, and environmental safeguards.
A bright future for biodiversity, ecosystem services, forests and people?
The key ingredients in the recipe for a successful way forward for biodiversity and ecosystem services in REDD+ are safeguards, effective tools, sound policies, and meaningful collaboration. Safeguards must ensure that REDD+ respects and does not harm biodiversity and ecosystem services. Effective tools will measure and monitor biodiversity and ecosystem-derived benefits, in order to plan for multiple benefits from REDD+, and to identify and respond to any negative impacts. Sound policies will ensure that multiple benefits are considered at each stage of REDD+ planning and implementation. Meaningful collaboration between stakeholders involved in REDD+ and forest biodiversity must be encouraged to promote understanding, the exchange of information and an effective policy and legal implementation framework.
We see an opportunity afforded by REDD+ investments to safeguard, enhance and optimize environmental services and biodiversity. Success would contribute to national sustainable development objectives and the transformation of the forest sector and forested landscapes, while sustainably mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases and supporting biological and cultural diversity.
Wahida Patwa-Shah is a Programme Officer for the UN-REDD Programme, based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Julie Greenwalt works with the Division for Environmental Policy Implementation on REDD+, as a Programme Officer for the UN-REDD Programme.