UNEP to support Indian stand on forestry

By Joydeep Gupta, IANS
Monday, December 7, 2009

COPENHAGEN - The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will give full support to India’s stand that developing countries must be paid for increasing area under forests, according to Pavan Sukhdev, the head of UNEP’s special team on calculating the value of forests.

“If countries can be paid for reducing deforestation, they must be paid for adding to the area under forests,” Sukhdev told IANS in an interview.

Payment for forestry is going to be one of the main items on the agenda of the Dec 7-18 Copenhagen climate summit that opened here Monday. Forests absorb about 20 percent of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that are increasing in the air and are causing climate change.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) has been a key topic at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations since it was given a push by Brazil and Indonesia, two countries with the largest tropical forests in the world. Most of the 192 countries now here for the summit had already agreed that developing countries would be paid under a REDD mechanism.

Then India and China proposed REDD Plus, under which countries adding to the forest area or improving forest cover would also be paid. This logical extension of REDD has been blocked by many industrialised countries on the ground that they would now have to pay too much.

Now UNEP is throwing its weight behind the Indian proposal to expand REDD to REDD Plus, said Sukhdev, who heads the UN study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity and also leads UNEP’s Green Economy project.

A member of the Indian government delegation who negotiates at REDD told IANS: “This support is going to be very important, because we are finding it difficult to get many countries to agree to REDD expansion.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Sukhdev said there should be two kinds of funding for all developing countries under REDD Plus: “One, open architecture funding, that is a clearing house for pilot projects in forestry. This can even be done without a global agreement, as long as global criteria on making the project MRV (measurable, reportable and verifiable) are met.

“Two, there should be some kind of nested funding at central and state levels in the country, under which good projects are rewarded while bad projects are penalised.”

Apart from this, the expert said, there should be an “inclusion fund” agreed at Copenhagen, under which countries such as Gabon or the Democratic Republic of Congo would get money to improve their capacity to undertake forest conservation projects.

Much of REDD or REDD Plus funding is supposed to come from trading in the international market the value of the carbon absorbed by trees. Asked to comment on fears that this would lead to a crash in the price of carbon, Sukhdev responded: “Contracts for green carbon are not the same as for brown carbon. There is no need for fungibility between the two. Look at the oil markets, they have been working on two benchmarks for 33 years.”

Fungibility is the concept by which the price of brown carbon (emitted by industry or vehicles) would be matched to the price of green carbon (absorbed by trees) and vice versa. Some experts fear REDD will lead to an oversupply in the carbon market, leading to a crash in the price that is now around $11 per ton.

Filed under: Environment, World

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