Features & Commentary
REDD+ in Ecuador: Ensuring Social and Environmental Co-Benefits
Ecuador, one of the UN-REDD Programme’s partner countries, is keeping social and environmental co-benefits a key priority in its REDD+ readiness preparations. REDD Specialist in Ecuador, Daniela Carrión, reports on how her country is achieving this goal.
Ecuador has one of the highest levels of biodiversity per surface area in the world. Although it is a small country, representing less than 0.2% of the planet’s surface, it is home to 18 per cent of the world’s bird species and orchids, 10 per cent of all amphibian species and eight per cent of all mammals.
It is also home to about 10 million hectares of forest cover, including many different types of forest, such as humid tropical rainforest, high-altitude Andean forest, mangroves, and dry forest. These forests store large quantities of carbon and generate other important ecosystem services such as a protection of soils and water. In addition, these forests also have great cultural and spiritual value, especially for Indigenous Peoples.
However, Ecuador’s forests are seriously threatened. The deforestation rate of Ecuador is among the highest in South America¹. Almost 200,000 hectares of forest are lost each year to deforestation, which produces about 55 million tons of GHG emissions each year. To change this trend, Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment is developing a new forest governance model. This model seeks to manage Ecuador’s forests in a sustainable way and one of the objectives of the model is to reduce deforestation. Implementing a REDD+ mechanism in the country offers an opportunity to accomplish this objective.
To date, the Ministry of Environment has identified the elements of its REDD+ strategy and some specific activities for each one of those elements. Some of the identified activities are already in implementation and some cross-cutting elements that will be applied to the entire strategy have also been identified. One of these cross-cutting elements is the delivery of social and environmental benefits from a REDD+ mechanism.
Ecuador’s Socio Bosque Programme
For the Ministry of Environment, it is relevant that REDD+ activities deliver both social and environmental benefits. Through the implementation of the Socio Bosque Programme (an incentive-based policy to tackle deforestation), Ecuador is already delivering social and environmental benefits. Throughout the Programme, forests landowners and Indigenous communities voluntarily commit to conserving their native forests for a period of 20 years and in exchange, they received an economic incentive yearly.
|Ecuador’s Socio Bosque Programme results 2008 - 2009 |
The Programme has two key elements that ensure social and environmental co-benefits. Regarding social benefits, as a precondition to joining the Programme, Indigenous communities and private landowners have to develop a “social investment plan” in which beneficiaries specify how they will spend the money they will receive yearly from Socio Bosque. This “social investment plan” is developed in a participatory way by all members of the community and beneficiaries freely decide how to use their economic incentive.
Since September 2008, Socio Bosque has signed conservation agreements that cover more than 400,000 hectares, and benefiting more than 40,000 people. As shown in the graph below, beneficiaries are using 17 per cent of the incentive for conservation, 20 per cent for organization and development, eight per cent for education, six per cent for health, 13 per cent for productive activities, and 16 per cent for infrastructure, among others.
Regarding environmental benefits, in order to ensure reduction of deforestation, the Programme developed a prioritization scheme. This scheme considers three different variables: 1) areas with high deforestation pressure; 2) areas with high importance for ecosystem services and; 3) areas with high poverty levels. Concerning the second variable, three ecosystem services were considered; those services are related to: carbon storage, water provision and biodiversity conservation. The prioritization scheme is shown in graph 2. Specific criteria have been defined to weight those variables, among them criteria for variable 2 ensures the provision of environmental benefits.
Ensuring the delivery of social and environmental benefits
Another ongoing activity to ensure the delivery of social and environmental benefits through the implementation of REDD+ activities is Ecuador’s work-plan with the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA) and Care International. This work-plan is designed to develop and implement a REDD+ social and environmental standard for national REDD+ strategies. The standard provides a bench-mark of good practice guidance for delivering co-benefits at a country level with REDD+. During 2009, Ecuador jointly developed the principles, criteria and indicators for this REDD+ standards. For this purpose, a consultation process was carried out in Ecuador with representatives of civil society and Indigenous communities. This year, the second phase of the work plan will start, developing a national interpretation for the standards and its pilot implementation.
|Daniela Carrión |
Ecuador is already delivering social and environmental benefits. In order to move forward, some next steps identified include integrating social and environmental benefits in other elements of Ecuador’s national REDD+ strategy and developing a system for monitoring REDD+ co-benefits.
Daniela Carrión is a REDD specialist for the Ministry of Environment in Ecuador.
¹ According to a study finished in year 2000 the rate of deforestation was of 1.46% per year.