Forest Day 3 in Copenhagen
Forests hold the key to climate change mitigation
There are some very good- and alarming- reasons why nearly 1500 of the world’s forestry experts felt compelled to gather on December 13, 2009 in Copenhagen. It has been estimated that deforestation and forest degradation account for up to one-fifth of the current global total of all greenhouse gases emitted by human activity. What’s more is that forests, if managed in a sustainable way, could contribute to more than 20 percent of the climate change solution. With that in mind, the Forest Day 3 event at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference marked a historical moment in the fight against climate change, giving the forest sector the due attention it deserved as one of the key players in negotiations, and placing REDD+ high on the climate change agenda.
Forest Day 3, put on by The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), the Government of Denmark and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, was a day of deliberations amongst the world’s foremost forestry experts, representatives of non-governmental organizations, indigenous leaders, policy makers and climate change negotiators. Speakers included Nobel laureates, Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, Wangari Maathai, and Elinor Ostrom, and the United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, Gro Harlem Brundtland, among many others.
A number of key messages emerged from discussions that day. In particular, one message that resonated over and over again was that forests had to play an early and central role in global and national climate mitigation and adaptation strategies; and that sustainable forest management is central to the success of REDD. These were all welcomed messages for the UN-REDD Programme, which co-hosted several learning events held that day.
After the plenaries, the UN-REDD Programme contributed to the forum by participating in four side events on MRV, early lessons learned in REDD countries, forests & biodiversity and REDD+ & rural livelihoods.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forest’s summary of Forest Day 3 stressed that “Forests can make a very significant contribution to a global mitigation portfolio. Even if forests contribute less than 20 percent of global emissions, they have potential to contribute much more than 20 percent of the solution. Reducing or reversing deforestation provides synergies with adaptation and sustainable development.”
Forest Day 3 speakers also acknowledged the important role local and forest communities could play in REDD. As forest stewards, their engagement and participation is critical for the success of REDD. The future of REDD+ relies on commitments from both developed and developing countries. Speakers during the event underscored that on the one hand, developed countries must commit to compensate developing countries economically for REDD, and for enhancing the storage of carbon in their forests in a sustainable way; while on the other hand, developing countries must commit to fulfill these reductions sustainably through a transparent and verifiable way, while also protecting the rights of local and forested communities.
Key messages coming out of the learning events touched on a number of issues including early lessons from REDD experiences, social impacts of REDD initiatives, governance and institutional capacity for adaptation and mitigation, and biodiversity. The Collaborative Partnership on Forest’s summary concluded that, “National consensus on a single national REDD+ strategy, reached through a broad and transparent consultation process, and integrated into the national development plan, is emerging as the principal method for organizing REDD+ activities at the national scale.”
While there has been consensus on the methodology, speakers stressed the importance of developing national REDD+ strategies that ensure social impacts are taken into consideration, and safeguards are taken into account, where appropriate. The event summary noted that, “Rights and tenure are crucial issues to address and resolve early in the implementation of REDD. Key items requiring attention are: conflicting claims to resources, state dominance in control of forest, inadequate recognition of indigenous and community rights, and the application of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).”
Good governance is also central to the success of REDD and requires sound commitment to disclosure, transparency and responsibility at all levels. Without this commitment there can be no real flow of information. For these reasons, and others, governance and institutional capacity for adaptation and mitigation was also a topic explored during the learning events. The drafting committee’s summary on Forest Day 3 reinforced this and concluded that, “Transparency needs to be achieved to avoid or limit corruption at all levels, even at the grassroots level. REDD is a multi level challenge and needs coordination at and across all levels.”
With many messages and burning issues deliberated over during the day’s events, Forest Day 3 wrapped up with many left feeling euphoric, but this feeling was also coupled with a sense of uncertainty. Many questions remain unanswered: what will the future hold for REDD+? What will a future REDD mechanism in the post-Kyoto climate change regime look like? How will it work and what obstacles remain? These were and still are questions on the table, but one thing is for certain coming out of Forest Day 3—there is a tremendous global will to ensure forests are here to stay.