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12/14/2010 11:36 AM     print story email story  

Cancun Agreement Includes Undefined Forest Initiative News

If you read yesterday's wrap-up coverage on the UN climate conference in Cancun, you may have noticed it included no information on the initiative to reduce tropical deforestation--known as REDD+.

This is because the issue evades simple summary, and it has taken some additional reading to determine exactly where the program stands following the latest round of negotiations. 

Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) was officially put into place in the Cancun agreement, but the majority of details for how the program will work have yet to decided.

While there is united support for preserving the planet's forests, these remaining details are at the center of a heated and contentious debate that is certain to continue until next year's conference in South Africa.

REDD+ aims to pay developing nations for preserving forests, an action that could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 12%. 

However, the Cancun agreement does not say how the program will be paid for. One proposal is to award forest preservation with carbon credits that could then be sold on to developed countries. This proposal has drawn strong opposition from forest advocates who say commoditizing the forests in this manner intensifies the threats of abuse and corruption. In addition, such a system may grant implicit ownership of forests, where ownership has never been clear. 

Furthermore, the Cancun agreement's language on protecting the rights of indigenous forest people has been criticized for being extremely weak. 

Another crucial detail that has yet to be settled is the definition of what is a forest under the program. Without strict language and oversight, palm plantations could actually fall under the protection of REDD+, when they are in fact one of the major causes of increasing deforestation.

Also, critics say there must be limits as too how many carbon credits rich nations could purchase, so that the reduction of forest emissions is not simply replaced by emissions from industrialized nations.. 

Sam Counsell of The Guardian, addressed many of these issues well in this piece. He argues that REDD+ was included in the Cancun agreement, in large part, because rich nations saw it as a way to save face for making little progress on other big issues.

The ABC News story at the link below, provides a slightly more optimistic account.


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