Storyteller – Biocultural Diversity Expert – Philanthropic Advisor

Gleb Raygorodetsky
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Thunder Bay, ON,
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Ms. Jacqueline Flynn
Joelle Delbourgo Associates Literary Agency
101 Park St., Montclair, NJ 07042
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Ms. Jessica Case
Pegasus Books
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REDD Trees Don’t Make Forests Green

REDD Trees Don’t Make Forests Green
In Biocultural Diversity, Resilience

Deforestation, especially of tropical forests, makes up 18 percent of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — more emissions than the entire global transportation sector. The 2007 Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized that reducing deforestation would be the most significant and immediate way to begin reducing global levels of GHG emissions.

Indeed, member States to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreed that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) initiatives should become an important climate change mitigation mechanism to help in maintaining or reducing the global atmospheric concentration of GHG.

REDD initiatives aim to reduce GHG emissions by assigning forests a monetary value based on their capacity to absorb and store atmospheric carbon. REDD+ initiatives attempt to incorporate additional sources of forest value, such as ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, and local livelihoods.

Photo: Nicolas Villaume/CWE from “ Guarani: The Price of Carbon

Both REDD and REDD+ approaches feed into carbon markets that are supposed to generate significant financial flows from companies with high degrees of GHG emissions in developed countries (e.g., from burning fossil fuels to create electricity) toward less polluting, carbon-neutral or carbon-negative activities in developing countries (e.g., community-managed forestry). The global forest carbon-based market is projected to generate US$30 billion a year.

Amongst other things, carbon markets are expected to provide significant financial rewards for indigenous peoples and communities to continue to preserve their traditional forested lands. Since 2008, over US$7.5 billion has been committed to REDD+ projects, with many more billions promised. The main global REDD+ database currently has 647 registered projects in 40 countries amounting to US$3.32 billion.

Most of these initiatives are located on indigenous lands, since indigenous peoples legally own more than 11 percent of the world’s remaining forests, with traditional ownership and land tenure covering an even greater area, which supports close to 80 percent of the planet’s terrestrial biodiversity.

Some proponents of REDD+ initiatives argue that these projects would help sustain local cultures and communities, while protecting global biodiversity. Others are more cautious, pointing out that such outcomes could be achieved only when collective and individual land rights and indigenous customary laws, as enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), are properly recognized. To date, however, many indigenous communities remain unrecognized by state governments, while the essential elements of UNDRIP (e.g., Free Prior and Informed Consent, or FPIC) are absent from REDD+ initiatives. Many Indigenous groups and their allies believe that REDD trees don’t make forests green.

Avoided-deforestation projects pose a problem rarely considered: the fate of the forest dwellers themselves.
Photo: Nicolas Villaume/CWE from “ Guarani: The Price of Carbon

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