REDD+ Talks: Leaders from business, UN and forest communities highlight REDD+ to tackle climate change
Leaders from the private, public and civil society sectors convened at REDD+ Talks: NYC to discuss their experiences of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and the role of the private sector in advancing this critical mechanism to tackle deforestation and climate change.
The meeting symbolized a microcosm of the engagement occurring across these different sectors in response to the challenge of climate change, and was as a precursor and enabler for the processes needed for sustainable development.
Held at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, the event provided a platform for high-level REDD+ practitioners and leaders of the business and policy worlds, indigenous peoples, and forest communities, to exchange experiences and explore the contributions the private sector can make to REDD+ through finance, sustainable operations, project investment, and sharing expertise.
The well-attended event also embodied UN-REDD’s inclusive approach. Three hundred invited guests gathered to hear speakers and panelists from organizations ranging from corporations including Microsoft (TJ DiCaprio. Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability) and Natura (Denise Alves, Head of Sustainability), Norway’s Minister for International Development, Heikki Holmas; non-governmental organizations (Cristián Samper, CEO of Wildlife Conservation Society, and Mike Korchinsky, CEO, Wildlife Works), indigenous groups (Chief Almir Narayamoga Suruí of the Surui tribe of Brazil, the United Nations (Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Veerle Vandeweerd, Director of UNDP Environment & Energy Group; and Pavan Sukhdev, Study Leader of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity); to Hollywood (Ed Norton, actor and UNEP Goodwill Ambassador).
The programme was followed by a reception in the zoo’s spectacular Congo Gorilla Forest exhibit.
Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), opened the event with a call for cross-sectoral collaboration: "REDD+ has over five years achieved a great deal and has secured support and finance from several governments such as Norway. But if the self-evident and multiple benefits of this initiative are to be fully realized we need a scaling up and acceleration of ambition from governments but also responsible investors prepared to support safeguards for local and indigenous peoples."
Climate change is one of the most pressing problems currently facing humanity. Overwhelming scientific evidence concludes that we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 13 billion tonnes by 2020 in order to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change.
Tackling deforestation is central to this challenge, as deforestation and forest degradation currently contribute approximately 15 per cent of global GHG emissions – more than the entire global transportation sector.
Participants agreed on the urgency of engagement in order to address climate change. “The time to act is now,” declared Kanyinke Sena, Chair, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
Deforestation has other devastating impacts such as endangering biodiversity, reducing fresh water supply, and threatening the livelihoods of communities who live in and around forests.
“REDD+ is a bridge between the indigenous world and the non-indigenous world, so it’s an appropriate way to begin this process” said Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, Chief of the Suruí People, Brazilian Amazon, who spearheaded a REDD+ project in the Brazilian Amazon. “It creates a vehicle through which the capitalist system can recognize the value of standing forests, and indigenous people can be rewarded for preserving them.”
Mama Mercy Ngaruiya, Chairlady of the Tumaini Women’s Group in Kasigau, Kenya on the benefits her community has seen from its REDD+ Project said, “When the carbon (project) came, oh wow- there was a change...We have education. Most of the children have started going to secondary school and university. We are going to have a different nation!"
REDD+ offers an innovative and effective approach to tackling deforestation and reducing emissions without massive investment in unproven technologies. REDD+ is therefore rapidly emerging as a key strategy in climate change mitigation.
REDD+ is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
In contrast to previous attempts to save forests, REDD+ aims to create financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to protect forests, reduce emissions from deforestation and invest in low-carbon pathways to sustainable development.
TJ DiCaprio, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability at Microsoft, said, "We are part of the problem. We also need to be part of the solution. We needed to get our own house in order first and clean-up our own operations. In order to do that, our reductions in carbon emissions had to go to zero."
REDD+ Talks: NYC was significant in bringing together leaders from many of the sectors that are key to REDD+’s success. Representatives from forest country governments, forest communities, major corporations, investment institutions and project development companies, explored the various roles the private sector can play in REDD+ and considered the many ways that companies can help to achieve the environmental and social gains that REDD+ promises.