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Features & Commentary

Panama Focuses on the Multiple Benefits of REDD+

In designing its REDD+ Programme, Panama is exploring various scenarios to capture the environmental and social benefits of REDD+ beyond carbon.

By: Gabriel Labbate

A REDD+ Programme that aims to capture the full range of carbon, environmental and social benefits can take many different forms. It all depends on the type of benefits the country wants to prioritize. For example, in addition to carbon benefits, the country can choose to prioritize biological corridors that improve connectivity between protected areas, and then enjoy benefits in terms of carbon payments and biodiversity conservation. Or, in the presence of areas with similar carbon stocks, a REDD+ programme can choose to prioritize those that are located upstream in the catchment basin and that are important for water quality. The Programme can also prioritize income generation from sustainable land use activities in addition to biodiversity benefits and conservation of a given carbon stock.

With the assistance of the UN-REDD Programme, Panama is currently exploring which options of REDD+ could capture the greatest range of benefits. A team of local and international experts recently met in Panama City on 6-8 March to report and share progress on this front. The work began last year with the identification of historical deforestation trajectories using deforestation maps that could be compared across time. The next step was to understand the contribution of potential drivers of deforestation, including the expansion of road networks, investments in mining or hydroelectric, population density and other variables like soil type, elevation and the like. Once the contributions from these drivers are well understood, the team will be in a position to explain past deforestation, to project results into the future and to observe how things may look in the absence of REDD+. The team can estimate how deforestation will advance if drivers do not change and it can also estimate impact if drivers change in intensity and/or location.

In parallel, the team has begun to estimate the potential benefits and costs of REDD+ by adding additional variables into the analysis. Specifically, they are putting into spatial format variables such as carbon stocks, costs of REDD+ (opportunity, implementation and transaction) and an array of environmental and social services such as biodiversity, soil retention and water quality among others. Some of these variables, such as estimated carbon payments or the opportunity cost of alternative land uses, can be presented in monetary terms. Others, however, may need to be shown in physical units or qualitative scales.

When environmental and social benefits, including carbon, are included in the spatial design of REDD+, the country can explore how these affect the private and social returns from deforestation. The result is a number of scenarios that differ one from another in the number and location of hectares that are included in a hypothetical REDD+ Programme. Each trajectory, or scenario, has its own benefits and costs, or in other words, what the country stands to gain from pursuing different REDD+ policies.

The exploration of REDD+ scenarios entails several iterations with policy makers, which have to respond to the different demands from various constituencies. The process is one of joint exploration of options. Policy makers may want to know the impact of REDD+ on current development policies, and/or they may want to go further and explore whether there are complementary investments that can increase the benefits of REDD+ while at the same time promoting a shift towards a green economy in the rural sector. The options are many. In the end, the choice of scenario, or the spatial design of a REDD+ programme, is not a technical but rather a political choice that countries need to make. The UN-REDD Programme continues to support countries such as Panama to inform these critical choices and priorities.

Gabriel Labbate is a regional technical advisor for the UN-REDD Programme (UNEP) in Latin America and the Caribbean, based in Panama City.











In this issue


Highlights from UN-REDD's 8th Policy Board Meeting

Update on Paraguay's REDD+ Progress

Nigeria Hosts Innovative "REDD+ University"

Clarifying Forest Governance in Viet Nam

The Philippines Seeks Inputs from UN-REDD on REDD+ Safeguards
Features & Commentary

Sudan's REDD+ Progress
By: Dr. Patrick Van Laake

Panama Focuses on the Multiple Benefits of REDD+
By: Gabriel Labbate
Reports & Analysis

UN-REDD Launches its 2011 Year in Review Report

UN-REDD Gender and REDD+ Report Now Available French and Spanish

Two New UN-REDD Workshop Reports now Available

New Go-REDD+ Issue Explores How to Become a "Forest Adding" Country
Looking ahead

Indonesia REDD+ Workshops on Participatory Governance Assessments and Free, Prior and Informed Consent
11-21 April, 2012: Bogor, Indonesia

Indigenous Peoples Dialogue for Africa
19-24 April, 2012: Arusha, Tanzania

Strengthening Accountability and Transparency in REDD+ in Africa Workshop
24-26 April, 2012: Lusaka, Zambia

FIP Sub-Committee Meeting
30 April-4 May, 2012: Wahsington, D.C., USA
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