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No success for REDD+ in Doha until links between carbon, biodiversity & people better understood

Landscape approach provides a useful tool to reconcile environmental, social and economic considerations relevant to REDD+.

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The relationship between forests, biodiversity and people cannot be ignored by climate mitigation schemes. Jan van der Ploeg/CIFOR.

DOHA, Qatar (29 November, 2012)_While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to forest loss and degradation, the management of forests under REDD+ schemes must be adapted to local contexts to ensure both carbon and biodiversity goals are attained, say scientists.

Christoph Wildburger and John Parrotta from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) and co-authors of a new study that explores the relationship between forests, biodiversity and people, spoke with Forest News on the sidelines of the UN Climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

They highlighted the need to ensure that trade-offs between climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation goals are carefully addressed by schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+).

Q:  Your research was based on a comprehensive analysis of scientific literature about forests and land management as well as specific REDD+ experiences. What did you learn?

A: The evidence is quite clear that by pursuing both biodiversity and social objectives in REDD+ planning at the earliest stages, the odds are considerably improved that REDD+ activities will yield significant and lasting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Q: What are the key links between biodiversity and carbon and why are they so critical?

A: Some of the key linkages between biodiversity and carbon include photosynthesis, decomposition and carbon storage. However, these processes are complex and result from interactions among many species that form a forest ecosystem.  At broader scales, a rich biodiversity enables forests to be resilient to environmental change and wise resource use by humans. In tropical forests, resilience results in a long-term capacity of forests to store carbon.  Hence, the loss of species causes declines in processes at several scales, with consequently reduced carbon stored in forests.

Q: What role do people play in this relationship?

A: People are strongly dependent on the goods (ranging from timber to fuel, food and medicines) and the ecosystem services that forests and their biodiversity provide, including carbon sequestration. Clearance of forests for agriculture and forest degradation (e.g. from unsustainable logging and wild fires) places the integrity of forest ecosystems, and their ability to continue to provide these critically important benefits to people across the world, in jeopardy. It also has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable populations, who are often most dependent on forests for their subsistence.

Careful management approaches that take into account the complexity of forest biodiversity, and the myriad of species-driven ecological functions that help support the ecosystem can help restore degraded areas and safeguard the world’s remaining forests against future human impacts and climate change.

Q: How can these relationships impact on the effectiveness of REDD+? 

A: Recognition of the importance of forests to people can potentially increase the effectiveness of REDD+ actions, if those actions take account of, and aim to meet the needs of, local people for resources and services from forests. Where these needs are ignored or insufficiently incorporated in planning and management for REDD+, there is a danger that REDD+ actions will lack local support and therefore may fail, leaving forests vulnerable to destruction or degradation that impair their ability to provide vital services, including climate change mitigation.

If people’s well-being is seen as a core objective, it is much more likely that REDD+ activities will be compatible with the aspirations of local stakeholders.

Q: What tools and approaches can policymakers use to balance these relationships when designing REDD+ projects?

A: REDD+ emerged within a larger landscape of forest and land use governance. There is a wide array of existing intergovernmental agreements, environmental and social certification schemes, multi-lateral funding mechanisms, and national and local governance mechanisms of relevance to REDD+, biodiversity, human rights and sustainable livelihoods.

Rather than simply generating new tools and new layers of complexity, the challenge for REDD+ projects is to engage with affected stakeholders in identifying locally appropriate approaches that can also demonstrate synergies with broader national and international norms.

Q: What other steps can be taken to ensure REDD+ does not impact negatively on carbon, biodiversity and people?

A: Caution is needed when extrapolating management recommendations across different forest and woodland ecosystems. No single approach can be necessarily replicated widely; instead strategies to implement REDD+ actions will need to be tailored to specific local and regional settings.

Moreover, the trade-offs between carbon and biodiversity need to be addressed in REDD+ planning and implementation to minimize the risk of unintended negative impacts, such as the displacement of forest degradation or deforestation to other areas. An integrated landscape management approach helps to define and address resulting trade-offs and provides a useful tool to reconcile environmental, social and economic considerations relevant to REDD+.

Furthermore, for REDD+ implementation to be most effective socio-economic impacts should be considered early on in REDD+ implementation, and tenure and property rights, including rights of access, use and ownership, need to be clear.

The report, Understanding Relationships between Biodiversity, Carbon, Forests and People: The Key to Achieving REDD+ Objectives will be presented at the discussion forum REDD+, biodiversity and people: Opportunities and Risks at Forest Day 6, which will be held on the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP18 on December 2.

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Community forestry Landscapes Rights