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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (REDD) - the link with wetlands

Wetlands and the REDD negotiations

Voluntary carbon trading schemes

Before briefly outlining potential links with wetlands in the negotiations on REDD in the Kyoto CDM-funded sense described in section 1 above, it should be noted that a number of voluntary carbon trading initiatives of relevance are also in existence. Some of these may continue outside the UNFCCC regulatory regime; while others are conceived as pilots for what could eventually be embraced by that regime.

For example, the World Bank launched its first prototype carbon fund in 2000, and now has ten carbon funds, including BioCarbon (BioCF) which is financing 3 pilot REDD projects. In 2007 the Bank launched the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, designed to give pilot experiences of REDD in a few countries as background for the UNFCCC negotiations (the payment structures are based on options under discussion in the Convention), as well as helping to build capacity on the issue (World Bank, 2007). Indonesia has recently (March 2009) asked for support under this programme for reducing emissions from loss of both forests and peatlands. The FAO, UNDP and UNEP are also collaborating in a joint UN REDD programme, financed by a multi-donor trust fund established in 2008.

Among NGOs, Wetlands International operates a Global Peatland Fund for investing in peatland restoration and conservation projects with associated socioeconomic development goals, initially in Indonesia, which are designed to generate verified and tradeable carbon credits (Voluntary Emission Reductions, or VERs). The Fund will trade the VERs on international voluntary carbon markets, with a portion of profits going to the Fund’s investors and the rest being used to support community development projects. The UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is active with partner organisations in Europe on peatland restoration schemes (in Belarus, in particular) designed to operate in similar ways.

REDD in the post-2012 regime for the Kyoto Protocol

UNFCCC COP13 Decision 1/CP.13, known as the Bali Action Plan, sets out the process for preparing decisions to be made at COP15 in Copenhagen in December 2009 which will frame implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol in the period beyond 2012. The scope of this mandate includes deliberations on “various approaches, including opportunities for using markets, to … promote mitigation actions”.

Numerous proposals have been developed by a variety of governments and organisations for schemes to institutionalise and finance REDD formally in the post-2012 regime. Parker et al (2008) give a guide to 33 of these proposed schemes, with cross-references to the UNFCCC technical documents relating to each of them. In addition, an open source data set and model to evaluate the carbon emission and financial implications of alternative approaches to providing positive economic incentives for REDD has been built by the Collaborative Modelling Initiative on REDD Economics, a consortium including the Terrestrial Carbon Group, Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, the University of East Anglia and Woods Hole Research Center, with input from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and the Prince's Rainforests Project.

Aspects of the legal options for an international agreement on REDD have also been reviewed by FIELD (2008). An agreement could take any one of a number of forms, including amendments to the Kyoto Protocol, a separate Protocol, or other decisions under the parent Convention. FIELD point out that in some places there are already relatively comprehensive frameworks of national nature conservation and forestry legislation that could provide an entry point. They also point out however that many indigenous peoples and local communities whose livelihoods depend on forests are not supportive of current proposals for REDD, because of concerns about their involvement and the frequent lack of good institutional structures for cascading benefits to them. FIELD therefore emphasise the need for REDD funds not to be focused solely on reducing emissions, but also to contribute to the improvement of forest governance and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, a badly designed REDD mechanism could reinforce the perception of forests as valuable only or mainly in terms of the carbon that they contain, rather than taking into account other ecosystem services and types of values.

First wetland dimension: wetland forests

There are perhaps three potential dimensions to a linkage between wetlands and the concepts for REDD that are currently being advanced. First, as explained in section 1 above, some forests are also wetlands. UNFCCC Decision 2/CP.13 recognised that “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries can promote co-benefits and may complement the aims and objectives of other relevant international conventions and agreements”, and this would be a basis for perceiving one form of synergy between REDD and the Conventions on wetlands (Ramsar) and biodiversity (CBD), for example. Avoiding deforestation can support conservation of soil, water, biodiversity and non-timber forest products.

As has been pointed out, however (Ecosystems Climate Alliance 2009), the carbon in natural ecosystems is resilient, and it might be more proper to consider biodiversity conservation as a core benefit rather than (in the terms of Decision 2/CP.13) a “co-benefit”.

Moreover, given the different carbon storage potential of different soil types, and the high capacity for example of peatlands in this regard, the primary emission reduction objective itself can be enhanced in forests which are also wetlands (such as peatswamp forests). Hence even in terms solely of the achievement of Kyoto targets, there may be good reason (ie greater carbon benefit per dollar) to give priority to forested wetlands in implementing schemes for REDD.

Second wetland dimension: forest hydro-security

The functioning of any forest system that is subject to measures for REDD will be dependent on a range of external influences. A key one of these is the hydrological context: every forest exists in a water catchment, and the management of that catchment, of its water resources and all activities that can affect these will be a crucial part of the equation. This in turn is heavily bound up with the functioning of wetlands in the landscape. Forest management that involves replenishment planting may be particularly dependent on adequate water supplies for supporting young trees; but more generally too, forest areas involved in REDD should be more viable in areas where there is better wetland conservation and river basin management.

Third wetland dimension: extending REDD concepts to cover wetlands

There has been substantial advocacy in recent years for considering the role of ecosystems other than forests in contributing to “avoided destruction and degradation” methods of reducing emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Peatlands and other wetlands have been acknowledged as obvious contenders for integration into a post-2012 framework (Royal Society, 2008).

Part of this debate relates to land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) activities of developed countries within their own territory under Articles 3.3 and 3.4 of the Protocol. Discussion has focused in particular on the scope of coverage of emissions from soil and vegetation, where non-agricultural/nonforestry wetland soils and vegetation are not currently covered (Ecosystems Climate Alliance, 2009; Ramsar Secretariat et al, 2007; Wetlands International, 2008b; Wetlands International, 2009b). Since the focus of the present paper is on ideas for Certified Emission Reduction credits to be generated under Article 12 of the Protocol from CDM-funded projects in developing countries, this Art 3.3-3.4 dimension is not considered further here.

An extensive treatment of options for inclusion of peatlands in post-2012 climate agreements is given in Pena (2008), much of which would be relevant to a consideration of the scope for inclusion of other wetland types as well. Pena’s review is critical of the human activity-based approach to addressing land management issues in Kyoto, and suggests for the future that an approach based on land types and sectors would be more effective, on the grounds of burden-sharing advantages and the ability to accommodate multiple-use situations.

Pena also assesses options for improving the effectiveness of the Clean Development Mechanism in this regard, given the potential for problems arising for example from competition between projects, or between CDM investment and investment in mitigation activities in developed (Annex I) countries. Although wetlands could be addressed by the CDM on a project basis, the general discussions on REDD have tended to focus on national-level approaches, which Pena’s review considers attractive in respect of wetlands too.

The review recommends that to be effective it will be important to reduce the effort required to set baselines; to ensure that all relevant gases are within the scope; to cover both conservation and restoration of wetlands, and to minimise negative impacts on prices of land, food, feed and fibre. Further work is also recommended on quantifying relevant wetland carbon balances (see also Lloyd, in prep); among other things to ensure proper valuation of resulting credits.

In terms of instruments, current models for REDD could be expanded to cover wetlands; or analogous/parallel wetlands-specific models could be constructed. There is a concern that given the relatively small number of countries with a significant extent of peatlands compared to those with forests, it may be harder to mobilise a groundswell of advocacy among developing countries for a wetlandspecific mechanism than it has been for REDD. This may make expansion of REDD a more practical option than aiming for a separate mechanism.

Concern about the magnitude of credits that might come to the market was one reason for the original exclusion of avoided deforestation from eligibility under the CDM, and this would need to be addressed for peatlands/wetlands too, perhaps by capping the proportional tonnage of targets that can be met from this source. Pena also considers ways to minimise problems arising from leakage (changes in emission balances that are attributable to projects but which occur outside the project boundaries), and cites some possible differences between forest schemes and peatland schemes in respect of the respective advantages of “project” and “national” approaches.

In the interests of developing countries which have not experienced significant deforestation, approaches to REDD have been suggested which aim to reward conservation of forests that are not currently experiencing deforestation or degradation. These would for example set “forward-looking” baselines that incorporate working assumptions about potential future loss/degradation, by reference to “business as usual” (BAU) scenarios or to historic trends. The same ideas could be applied to a mechanism for wetlands. These ideas are however at the ambitious end of what might be achieved in the current negotiations.

As one indication of the scale of ambition that may or may not be appropriate, at the time of UNFCCC COP14 in December 2008, the working group on methodologies for REDD decided (in relation to pilot projects) only to address above-ground biomass, and not to consider any soil carbon component. It has been said that this is a result of uncertainties surrounding measurement of soil emissions, but Wetlands International maintains that these difficulties have been exaggerated, at least as far as peat soils are concerned (Wetlands International website news item, 10 December 2008).

Links between Conventions

The decision tables in Section 3 above provide a stock-take of adopted intergovernmental positions and technical advice on wetlands and climate (mitigation) interactions, which offer several sources of additional political and scientific support for the potential extension of REDD-type concepts to cover wetlands.

Clearly one angle is the scope for synergy and mutual reinforcement among the agendas of the respective Conventions when a REDD or “wetland-REDD” mechanism produces associated benefits for conservation of biodiversity, wetlands, protected areas and so on. As pointed out in this paper, however, the links are potentially significant in a variety of other ways; not least that the implementation of these other Conventions can contribute much to the emissionreduction aims of the UNFCCC, including in ways that support socioeconomic objectives in developing countries at the same time.

The Ramsar Convention in particular is in a position to provide a direct readacross of international concepts, principles, methods and standards for understanding what constitutes avoidance of degradation of wetlands, and for guidance and norms on issues such as inventory, monitoring, vulnerability assessment and hydrological functions. These would be essential ingredients in operating any REDD-type mechanism in relation to wetlands.

Ramsar, like others, is making efforts to improve the science of calculating wetland carbon balances, though the forthcoming Ramsar Technical Report (Lloyd, in prep) and the on-going work of the Scientific & Technical Review Panel. This will offer vital assistance to the moves to address wetlands under Kyoto, and cooperation between the respective Conventions will be of increasing importance as the negotiations for UNFCCC COP15 gather pace.

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) in developing countries

REDD can deliver rapid emission reductions as a complement to mitigation in other sectors

Deforestation and forest degradation account for approximately 17% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In its Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), the IPCC concluded that ‘forestry can make a very significant contribution to a low cost global mitigation portfolio that provides synergies with adaptation and sustainable development’.

Further scientific research since the IPCC AR4 indicates an even greater urgency to reduce emissions in order to stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at safe levels. Given the current rates of deforestation and ongoing forest degradation, IUCN sees the adoption of a carefully designed REDD regime within the post-2012 agreement as a necessary rather than a discretionary mitigation option, complementing ambitious mitigation measures in other sectors. REDD has the advantage that it could deliver urgently needed GHG reductions while other essential mitigation options come on stream. If properly designed, it can provide a bridging mechanism in the transition towards a low-carbon economy whilst increasing resilience and enhancing adaptive capacity to climate change; contributing to rural livelihoods; promoting good forest governance and delivering biodiversity objectives.

IUCN welcomes the broad support from Parties, at the UNFCCC Bonn-1 talks (29 March to 8 April 2009), that recognizes the value of incorporating Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) in the post- 2012 UN climate change regime, as a possible nationally appropriate mitigation action (NAMA) in developing countries and as a complement to ambitious targets for emissions mitigation in other sectors by developed country Parties.

IUCN welcomes the recognition of the need for adequate, predictable and sustainable finance to support the REDD mechanisms, including for capacity building.

IUCN also welcomes the consensus emerging on the need to address drivers of deforestation; the importance of financing REDD Readiness in implementing countries; the links between governance and an effective REDD framework; the need to preserve the rights of forest dependent communities, with particular attention to the interests of women; the role of forest degradation; the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

IUCN further welcomes other “informal” processes established in support of the formal negotiations and encourages Parties to take note of their outcomes. These include the Collaborative Partnership on Forests’ (CPF), Strategic Framework on Forests and Climate Change1 which clearly outlines how forests, when sustainably managed, can play a positive role in climate change mitigation and adaptation. In addition, The Forests Dialogue (TFD), is currently bringing together forest leaders from the private sector, NGOs, Governments, Indigenous Peoples and forest communities to explore and facilitate consensus on “finance mechanisms for REDD”

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Carbon Mapping Breakthrough

By integrating satellite mapping, airborne-laser technology, and ground-based plot surveys, scientists from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, with colleagues from the World Wildlife Fund and in coordination with the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment (MINAM), have revealed the first high-resolution maps of carbon locked up in tropical forest vegetation and emitted by land-use practices.
These new maps pave the way for accurate monitoring of carbon storage and emissions for the proposed United Nations initiative on Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). The study is published in the September 6, 2010, early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The United Nations REDD initiative could create financial incentives to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and degradation. However, this and similar carbon monitoring programs have been hindered by a lack of accurate, high-resolution methods to account for changes in the carbon stored in vegetation and lost through deforestation, selective logging, and other land-use disturbances. The new high-resolution mapping method will have a major impact on the implementation of REDD in tropical regions around the world.

The study covered over 16,600 square miles of the Peruvian Amazon -- an area about the size of Switzerland. The researchers used a four-step process: They mapped vegetation types and disturbance by satellite; developed maps of 3-D vegetation structure using a LiDAR system (light detection and ranging) from the fixed-wing Carnegie Airborne Observatory; converted the structural data into carbon density using a small network of field plots on the ground; and integrated the satellite and LiDAR data for high-resolution maps of stored and emitted carbon. The scientists combined historical deforestation and degradation data with 2009 carbon stock information to calculate emissions from 1999-2009 for the Madre de Dios region.

"We found that the total regional forest carbon storage was about 395 million metric tons and emissions reached about 630,000 metric tons per year," explained lead author Greg Asner. "But what really surprised us was how carbon storage differed among forest types and the underlying geology, all in very close proximity to one another. For instance, where the local geology is up to 60 million years old, the vegetation retains about 25% less carbon than the vegetation found on geologically younger, more fertile surfaces. We also found an important interaction between geology, land use, and emissions. These are the first such patterns to emerge from the Amazon forest."

The scientists also found that the paving of the Interoceanic Highway, combined with selective logging and gold mining, caused an increase of deforestation emissions of more than 61% by 2009, while degradation emissions doubled. Forest degradation increased regional carbon emissions by 47% over deforestation alone. However, the researchers were able to detect an 18% offset to these regional emissions in forests regrowing on previously cleared and now abandoned lands.

Members of the Peruvian government participated throughout the research process to familiarize themselves with the new method. In doing so, they aimed to assess the method's advantages, evaluate deforestation and forest disturbance, and determine carbon stocks in an environmentally critical area of Madre de Dios, Peru. "A valuable opportunity has opened for MINAM to count on Carnegie's scientific and technical support. This will strengthen our ability to monitor the Amazon forest, build experience in improving the interpretation of the country's environmental and land management conditions, and contribute to the establishment of the REDD mechanism," says Doris Rueda, director of Land Management at MINAM.

To support REDD, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued baseline carbon density estimates for different biomes of the world, while also encouraging higher resolution approaches. When used for the Peruvian study area, the IPCC baseline estimate for carbon storage is 587 million metric tons. Based on the new Carnegie approach, the estimated total is 395 million metric tons. Under REDD-type programs, however, the high-resolution accuracy of the new approach would yield more credit per ton of carbon, thereby providing financial incentives for slowing deforestation and degradation.

Carnegie scientists are expanding their demonstration and training efforts in the high-resolution mapping technique with the governments of Ecuador and Colombia.

The research was supported by the Government of Norway, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the W. M. Keck Foundation, and William R. Hearst III.

Source : http://www.sciencedaily.com

Scots Pine Shows Its Continental Roots

By studying similarities in the genes of Scots Pine trees, scientists have shown that the iconic pine forests of Highland Scotland still carry the traces of the ancestors that colonised Britain after the end of the last Ice Age, harbouring genetic variation that could help regenerate future populations, according to new results in the journal Heredity.
The research was carried out by an international team from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, the Polish Academy of Sciences, the University of Edinburgh and the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute.

Today's Scots Pine forests are remnants of the ancient, much larger Caledonian forest that covered the northern parts of Britain from the end of the last Ice Age until many trees were lost due to over-exploitation and agriculture more than 400 years ago.

It has previously been thought that as the trees were lost so was much of the genetic diversity contained within them. Without sufficient genetic diversity the remaining pine tree populations may not be able to adapt and survive under new conditions, for example as the climate changes.

By studying the remnant Scottish populations the researchers were able to see how much genetic variation remains and also how these trees compare to the intact Scots Pine forests of continental Europe and Asia.

The good news is that Scottish populations turn out to be at least as genetically diverse as their continental cousins. This suggests that despite the huge losses they have suffered, the last fragments of the Caledonian Pine forest in Scotland still harbour genetic variation that could help regenerate future populations.

"Despite its Scottish image, the Scots Pine owes much to its European roots." said paper co-author Dr Stephen Cavers, an ecologist based at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology's Edinburgh site, "By looking at the trees' DNA we have learnt much about how the forests grew up after the Ice Age. Given the severe fragmentation of the current population, our results are key to understanding how these forests will cope with future change."

Where the genetic diversity comes from is another question. Given the great age that these trees can reach -- as much as 700 years in some cases -- the forests present today may be no more than a few tens of generations removed from the first migrants to reach these shores after the ice retreated. DNA evidence suggests that these early arrivals came in two waves: one, which reached the far north-western Highlands very soon after the ice retreated, possibly via Ireland, and another, which settled in the eastern Highlands, from central Europe.

Dr Cavers added, "We plan to continue the study, to try and discover if there are particular genes which let the Highland trees tolerate the harsh Scottish climate."

Source : http://www.sciencedaily.com