The Imperative of Forest Conservation

Second only to the use of fossil fuels, deforestation is the largest driver of global climate change, but a proposal before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change could change that.

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the impact of deforestation in Indonesia

© Rainforest Action Network | flickr

On the outskirts of Paris, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) is meeting to ensure that the threat of runaway climate change is neutralized. COP21 will host more than 100 world leaders and over 40,000 delegates who hope to finalize a global warming pact.

Key to the success of this effort is a little known proposal representing one of the quickest, lowest cost and most non-controversial approaches to solving the climate problem.

The proposal, known formally as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation,” (REDD+) envisions a reduction in deforestation and forest degradation in exchange for payments for forest eco-system services like forest management, land use planning, and forest monitoring.

Because forests remove and store massive amounts of carbon dioxide, deforestation and forest degradation are big contributors to global warming. Second only to the use of fossil fuels, deforestation is responsible for more than 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

REDD+ is probably the only concrete measure that could be agreed at COP21 and implemented in the New Year. It is universally agreed upon to be a viable mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is ready for immediate implementation.

No new technology is necessary for success with REDD+. Unlike clean energy, which requires significant R&D and massive international investment, REDD+ can make an immediate difference. In fact, we could end deforestation before we replace even 10 percent of fossil power stations by renewables.

The goal of REDD+ is to build sustainable livelihoods for rural and indigenous communities by leveraging these forest management technologies and techniques.

Countries across the globe are committed to creating a new international climate agreement. In preparation, they have agreed to publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take.

These actions, known as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), will largely determine whether the world achieves an ambitious 2015 agreement and sets a new path toward a low-carbon, climate-resilient future.

But current INDC pledges are insufficient to keep the global temperature rise to 2°C. We are on a pathway for a global temperature rise of 3.5°C based on submitted INDCs.

REDD+ is already at work stabilizing our climate—in 2008, Brazil and Norway agreed on a bilateral deal in which Brazil would greatly reduce Amazonian deforestation in exchange for payments from Norway. As a result, Brazil has since reduced deforestation in the Amazon by around 80 percent.

REDD+ needs to be accepted and funded appropriately as a part of the architecture that brings about a solution to the climate problem. Action is urgently needed, and REDD+ gives us the possibility of immediate action.

It is the lowest cost, most practical and immediately available strategy that can make a real, long-lasting difference to the climate problem. REDD+ is a signal to the world that we are serious about confronting the threat of runaway climate change. Who could oppose it?

Federica Bietta, Paul Chung, and Kevin Conrad are, respectively, Chief Executive, Chief Financial Officer, and Director and Chairman of the Board of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations.

Creative Commons License This article was republished from The Daily Climate under a Creative Commons Share-Alike License.

About the researcher

Geoffrey Heal

Geoffrey Heal, Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise at Columbia Business School, is noted for contributions to economic theory and resource and...

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