La versión en castellano: "Los Bosques y el Cambio Climatico - Introducción a la función de los bosques en las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático de Negociaciones' está disponible utilizando el siguiente enlace:
I take the opportunity of inviting you to a side event on "REDD Traps and how to avoid them", which will take place at the upcoming negotiation session of the Climate Convention in Bonn, on 3 June at 19:30 in room Metro. The side event is organized by Friends of the Earth International and the Global Forest Coalition, in cooperation with the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests.
Lastly, below I am pasting a small update on the forest situation in Paraguay, where we just achieved a de facto deforestation moratorium for the entire country. Which is great for our forests and Indigenous Peoples, but bad for our REDD funding chances. See below.
Paraguay: Good in Forests, Bad in REDD?
By Simone Lovera, Sobrevivencia/Friends of the Earth-Paraguay
There was extremely good news for Paraguayan forests, Indigenous Peoples and all of us last Friday: The Secretariat of the Environment has postponed all new licenses for deforestation in the Western half of the country, the Chaco region, at least until a profound assessment of all remaining forest resources has been undertaken. This is in response to serious concerns about the impact of deforestation in the Chaco on Indigenous Peoples, including a number of Ayoreo communities that are still living in voluntary isolation in this remote area. It is also in response to the dreadful impacts deforestation in the Chaco has had on biodiversity, water resources, and climate change. The Chaco region has been devastated by one of the most severe droughts in history, and several climate models are telling that not only global warming, but also ransom deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Paraguay itself has been causing these prolonged droughts, as regional rain patterns have been disturbed. An immediate halt to deforestation was one of the key recommendations of experts who are studying the causes and the impact of current drought in the Chaco, which is having an unprecedented impact on the local economy and human livelihoods, especially for Indigenous communities.
As a total moratorium on further deforestation was already in place for the Eastern half of Paraguay since 2004, there is now a de facto ban, at least temporarily, on all new deforestation in the country. This turns Paraguay into one of the leaders in the Latin-American region as far as reducing deforestation is concerned. While forest law enforcement has always been a major challenge in Paraguay and while some deforestation in the Chaco will still continue on basis of already submitted licenses, the 2004 moratorium reduced deforestation with an astonishing 83% within one year.
Yet cynically enough, Paraguay's new environmental policy might be good for forest peoples and mitigating climate change, but it might actually be really bad for its ambitions to obtain funding from a new mechanism that is currently being developed within the climate negotiations to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). As frustrated cattle ranchers in the Chaco have already pointed out in local newspapers, now that Paraguay has already halted deforestation, it might loose out on funding to reduce deforestation in the future. Most current REDD proposals link funding to a certain reduction of (emissions from) deforestation compared to a so-called baseline, a "business as usual" scenario. Especially if REDD funding would be linked to carbon markets, countries or companies will have to prove that there would have been significant deforestation in the absence of the REDD-funded project or strategy. Countries, communities, or Indigenous Peoples that have chosen not allow any deforestation anymore, or which never destroyed their forests in the first place, are running a serious risk of loosing out in this new mechanism.
While these inequities and perverse incentives in current REDD proposals are gradually becoming recognized, very few proposals are on the table that would actually address them in an effective manner. Even if carbon offset funding for reduced deforestation would be combined with a fund that strives to distribute REDD funding in an equitable manner, exemplary countries like Paraguay would still receive very modest funding only, while the large financial flows would go to large countries like Brazil that have continued deforestation practically unabated since the Rio Summit in 1992, and that propose to reduce deforestation with 30% at most. Undeniably, a combination of public funding and carbon markets, as proposed by many, will lead to less public funding, as it is far more attractive for the major donor countries to give their funds to a mechanism that gives them carbon offset credits in return. So if they are able to choose, they will probably choose to pour most of their funding into market-based funding mechanisms.
There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this on the ground experience. First of all, current REDD proposals do already provide perverse incentives to increase deforestation. The new Minister of Environment in Paraguay is under pressure to restart providing licenses for deforestation as soon as possible, so that landowners can claim funding for not destroying their land. In neighboring Brazil, the generously funded preparation of a REDD strategy has been combined with new legislative proposals to increase deforestation by allowing land owners in the Amazon to destroy 50% of their forests instead of the current 20%. This might seem contradictory, but it is not, as Brazilian landowners, and Brazil as a country, will be able to claim far more financial compensation for not deforesting the Amazon if they can proof that 50% can be legally destroyed under a "business as usual scenario". Paraguay, in all its innocence, has just done the opposite: the Secretariat of the Environment has also raised the mandatory forest reserve in the Chaco from 25 to 40% of every property. Which is great for forests and Indigenous Peoples, but terrible for claiming compensation for not cutting down forests.
A second lesson is that carbon markets have little to offer for countries that are actually doing their best to save forests. The better you are, the less funding you will get. The old Paraguayan position in favor of carbon offset finance for forests can be seen as quite misguided, in this respect. The fact that a handful of large conservation organizations is already making money out of private carbon offset projects undoubtedly has had something to do with this misguidance, but for the country as a whole, this position is totally against its interests. It should also be pointed out that small and poor countries have lost out in general in the carbon market: a country like Paraguay has succeeded to get only 3 projects approved by the Clean Development Mechanism until now, while big neighbor Brazil has already succeeded to get 120 projects funded.
Last but not least, the Paraguayan experience shows how simple and cost-effective halting deforestation can be, even in a country that is still trying to recuperate from 60 years of dreadfully bad governance and corruption. This does not mean that Paraguay should not be entitled to funding from a proposed financial mechanism under the climate regime. In fact, countries like Paraguay that have taken the lead in halting deforestation should be entitled to extra support, taking into account the historical responsibilities of developed countries for climate change and the devastating effect droughts and other global warming related impacts are already having on the economy of the country and the well-being of its people. But such financial flows should be steered by equity, and provide positive incentives for countries that have taken the lead in mitigating climate change instead of perverse incentives to continue destroying this planet.