Hi, it’s me, Veronika! I’m happy to see you all back on our blog! In our last post we introduced ourselves – in this one, I will sum up for you the most important facts about forests and their relevance regarding climate change, and also how to deal with the issue of deforestation in the future.
By the way, did you know that forests make up about 30% of the world land area? (WBCSD, 2010, p.22) As forests transform CO2 into oxygen, they can be considered the “lungs of our planet” (Speller, 2014), which is why they help reduce global warming by CO2 emissions. Given that trees absorb CO2 like “carbon sinks” (GreenFacts, 2015), the carbon footprint is struck twice when locals burn woodlands in order to cultivate oil palms or soybeans: Not only does the fire cause more CO2 emissions, the practice reduces the amount of trees and therefore the absorption of CO2. “Overall, the world’s forest ecosystems are estimated to store some 638 Gt (638 billion tonnes) of carbon, which is more than the amount of carbon in the entire atmosphere“. (Pacheco, 2015).
What is alarming is that the two countries with the large forest areas, Brazil and Indonesia, also record “the largest forest losses over the past five years” (Pacheco, 2015).
Besides the cultivation of palm oil and soybean, another reason for deforestation is the pasture for cattle.
Furthermore, the loss of biodiversity goes along with deforestation. “More species of plant and animal live in the rainforest than any other land habitat” (Speller, 2014). Moreover, more than a quarter of day-to-day medicines has been extracted from rainforest plants, although “only 1% of rainforest plants have been studied for medicinal properties” (Speller, 2014). Thus “we might lose a potential cure” (Speller, 2014) due to deforestation.
The tightrope walk will be between stopping deforestation but at the same time maintaining enough agricultural land for locals to make a living by crop growing.
So how can we stop deforestation?
The REED framework was established at COP13 in Bali in 2007 and finalized in 2010 at COP16 as REED+. (The REDD Desk, 2015) “REED+ is an acronym for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries + Conservation and Sustainable Management” (WBCSD, 2010, p.22).
Within the scope of REED+, affected developing countries should at first develop “a national strategy or action plan” (UNFCCC, 2015). Secondly, establish “a national forest reference emission level and/or forest reference level […] as an interim measure” (UNFCCC, 2015). Thirdly, “a robust and transparent national forest monitoring system is required” (UNFCCC, 2015) and fourthly, the set-up of “a system for providing information on how REDD+ safeguards are being addressed and respected throughout the implementation” (UNFCCC, 2015).
The key issues in Paris at COP21 will be to negotiate a final agreement on the implementation procedures of REDD+ (Forest Trends Association, 2015), and crucial to the success of this mechanism will be “that REDD+ must be able to generate significant amounts of finance to REDD+ countries” (Forest Trends Association, 2015) so that e.g. locals get an incentive to preserve the rainforest (WBCSD, 2010, p.22). So far, “[o]ver $9.8 billion has been committed to support REDD+ in the run-up to the COP in Paris” (Forest Trends Association, 2015).
Thus, it will remain exciting how stakeholders will be elaborating on stopping deforestation and REED+ at COP21 and what the concrete outcomes will be.
Forest Trends Association (2015) Forest Trends at COP21. Available at: http://www.forest-trends.org/dir/cop21/#more (11/11/2015).
GreenFacts (2015) How can forests affect climate change? Available at: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/forests/l-2/3-climate-change.htm#0 (11/11/2015).
Pacheco, P. (2015) One wicked problem, three major challenges. Available at: http://blog.cifor.org/33868/zero-deforestation-special-one-wicked-problem-three-major-challenges?fnl=en/ (11/11/2015).
Speller, P. (2014) 9 facts you need to know about forests and trees. Available at: http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/forests/9-awesome-facts-about-forests-20140321 (11/11/2015).
The REDD Desk (2015) Forests: why are they important? Available at: http://theredddesk.org/what-is-redd#toc-2 (11/11/2015).
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2015) UNFCCC negotiations. Available at: http://redd.unfccc.int/fact-sheets/unfccc-negotiations.html (11/11/2015).
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) (2010) Vision 2050 [Online] Available at: http://www.wbcsd.org/WEB/PROJECTS/BZROLE/VISION2050-FULLREPORT_FINAL.PDF, p.22. (11/11/2015).