Of layering, piggybacking and bundling


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By Meena Menon, Mumbai, India – The Hindu

If you ever thought that these terms would apply to forests, think again. Economist Sven Wunder from CIFOR says the  concept of REDD plus was based on global type of payments for environmental services where you could make conditional payments on the  avoidance of deforestation, some avoided degradation and offer disincentives as well. REDD plus must stop deforestation and maximize  benefits for the poor. However, he said if you had finite budgets then you cannot maximize more than one target. REDD plus is meant to  sequester carbon, provide welfare activities for communities, and protect biodiversity with a single tool. You can`t always have a win-win situation, Wunder warns.  There are some things that must take the front since “we’re in trade-off territory.”

If  peasant groups and NGOs are opposing REDD plus for commodifying forests and carbon, they should listen to Sven Wunder.  In his recipe for the success of REDD plus he says high threat and low cost areas must be targeted  and one can use the leverage of payments as a disincentive. Even biodiversity conservation can become a part of REDD plus, he says, citing a study by Busch et al. (2010). In the system he envisages, you can have bundling of services to a single buyer, layering a group of services which is then sold to different buyers and piggybacking services, giving one service free providing you pay for another.

Forest areas have a poverty rate but low poverty density since there is low population density. In the Mexican program, taking part in the payment for environmental services (PES) has augmented the socioeconomic conditions of the poor, and it has been a success story.

Investment in land-based carbon activities does pay off, according to Joanna Durbin,  director of Climate Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA).  She advocates the use of standards for such projects. Investors like multiple benefits, and over two years CCBA and CARE have been facilitating national standards for REDD plus and social and environmental standards and have developed them in an inclusive process.  Five countries are adopting them in a pilot phase, including Nepal and Ecuador. Gustavo Fonseca of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) said at the recent Tiger conference in Russia that there was talk of how tiger habitats were 3.5 times more carbon rich than non-tiger areas.  It’s a possibility that REDD plus may target such areas.  The GEF may put together a billion dollars for REDD alone.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the countries taking the lead in REDD plus and Ruben Rashidi, member of the Climate Working Group on REDD from Congo, said that the forest basin of the country had 60 per cent of forest land. Congo has been engaged in REDD plus since 2009 and this year it adopted a national plan towards a road map for REDD. It plans to adopt a strategy by 2010.

Will all this brilliant economics and strategy work to save the planet and, more importantly, will REDD plus deliver? As one of the participants in the session, Andrew Taber, said, “hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.”

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