With growing investor interest in forest-based climate mitigation, including forest carbon sinks and benefits from reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), recent debates have raised challenging questions that experts say need to be adequately addressed. They say
Forest conservation is an important tool for mitigating climate change, but integrity issues in forest carbon offsets — such as elevated reference levels — must be addressed to maintain and support the integrity of forest-based climate solutions, the scientists said. May 9 session Global Forest Monitoring Initiative (GFOI) complete by 2023. The side event aimed to address potential pitfalls by learning mainly from CIFOR-ICRAF’s long-standing lessons. A Global Comparative Study on REDD+ (2009-2023), covering about 14 years of research in 22 countries.
Accurate and transparent measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of emissions is an important part of the forest carbon market; However, very few rigorous assessments of REDD+ effectiveness are available, said Pham Thu Thuy, a senior scientist who leads the Climate Change, Energy and Low Carbon Development Group with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and World Agroforestry (ICRAF).
That, in turn, has contributed to a lack of clear guidance on good enforcement practices, he said.
Reforming the methodology for constructing and measuring reference levels, such as deforestation rates, could improve integrity and reliability in REDD+ projects, which typically require millions of dollars in upfront investments and take 10 years to show returns, speakers said. During the GFOI event. It brought together global experts to share scientific findings on the effectiveness of forest carbon projects.
Standards for 'high-integrity REDD+’ include counterfactual baselines, new remote sensing capabilities, assessment of atmospheric integrity, leakage, biodiversity impacts and equity, said Kevin R. Brown, global leader in REDD+ and nature-based technology standards. solutions in Wildlife Conservation Society.
Erin Sills, Senior Associate, CIFOR-ICRAF North Carolina State University, noted that impact assessment and accounting systems for carbon credits serve different purposes. However, he added, impact assessment findings and methods should be used to design accounting systems to „increase incentives to reduce deforestation.”
In addition to focusing on forest carbon credits and markets, benefit-sharing mechanisms should also be addressed, Baum said, as discussions turned to challenges and prospective solutions in moving toward more integrated forest carbon credits.
„We need to have the benefits shared equally, as well as the involvement of local communities to ensure that equity and fairness are taken into account,” he added.
„We’re seeing a lot of progress and a lot of discussion about how to improve the methodology for valuing carbon credits, and I think progress in terms of non-carbon benefits has been very slow in comparison.”
Adequate funding remains a serious constraint and overall REDD+ funding remains low, particularly for national REDD+ projects, said session moderator and CIFOR-ICRAF Senior Fellow Sven Wunder. Project sponsors can use their funds more effectively by targeting the most at-risk areas — something recent research suggests doesn’t always happen, Wunder said. European Forestry Institute (EFI).
REDD+ may have a forest conservation impact if these interventions are more spatially targeted, choosing to start in areas of significant deforestation rather than 'high and remote’ areas where forest loss is low and cannot start. ,” he said.
„In your project site, it is equally important to prioritize areas most threatened by deforestation, eg those near roads, rivers or cities.”
In many countries, project funding is not allocated equitably and institutional structures to clarify who owns carbon rights or who are the beneficiaries are insufficient, said Baum.
„If you want to guarantee social security and equitable outcomes, you have to provide adequate financial resources for that,” he said. Pham said this includes funding to conduct costly Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) processes involving indigenous peoples and local communities.
„After (several) years of implementing REDD+, countries are still in the process of designing mechanisms for beneficiaries.”
Most funding for jurisdictional REDD+ has so far come from international aid budgets. Arild Angelsen, Senior CIFOR-ICRAF Associate, who outlined the history of REDD+ credits and carbon markets, said many developing countries are now questioning the ratio of funding for climate projects to total spending on Official Development Assistance (ODA). He noted that one-third of development aid is allocated to climate-related projects.
„There are concerns that climate (as an issue) has grown too big and has taken resources away from direct poverty reduction — however, a sustainable climate is essential to fighting poverty in the future,” said Angelson, a professor at the School of Economics and Business. Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
Additional support from fellow scientists is also needed, panelists said:
- Leverage new and emerging technologies as a mechanism for a cost-effective approach to developing jurisdictions for unplanned degradation;
- spatial modeling of deforestation risk to better set baselines and targets for interventions;
- Cost-effectively assessing a range of spills, including quantifying the trade-offs between simple approaches and complex, expensive localized approaches.
Donors engaging in jurisdictional REDD+ should also invest in impact assessment, Wunder said, which has yet to happen. The failure means „we’ll all be scratching our heads again to understand what plans have or haven’t worked and why” in the years to come.
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