Thursday, 24 September 2009 00:00

President Jagdeo sounds urgency on REDD

Stories News 2009 09 24 1In an unprecedented display of cooperation between developed and developing countries on climate change, eighteen Heads of State gathered at UN headquarters in New York to publicly express their commitment and support for REDD – Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries.They asserted that the new climate change agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen must address in an effective and equitable way the role of forests as a mitigation option.

But President Bharrat Jagdeo, one of the main speakers during yesterday’s REDD meeting, lamented the sloth in commitment coming from developed countries with regard to the crucial issue of financing for REDD, and sounded an ‘urgent call’ for them to be much more decisive and firm in their financial commitment to deforestation.

“Everyone recognises the importance of REDD, but what we are lamenting is that in spite of this recognition that it is a low cost abatement solution, and forests are an important part of the solution, there isn’t adequate financing currently on the table,” President Jagdeo told a news conference he chaired at the UN headquarters last evening, immediately following the high-profile REDD meeting.

President Jagdeo also expressed concern that too many persons seem to be more focused on the problems associated with REDD rather than its potential solution.

He feels it is due to this that REDD is not getting the type of attention that it needs to be included prominently in the Copenhagen agreement.

President Jagdeo, who was accompanied and supported at the news conference by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, and the Environmental Minister from Congo, Mr. Henri Djombo, told reporters: “We hope to change that. So we are saying ‘this is an urgent matter – and the time for pilots and technical details and all of that…that time is long gone; there is urgency now and we have to get forests (REDD) included prominently at Copenhagen.”

“…we are prepared to lock our forests away for a global good, in exchange for resources to develop alternatives – to give people an alternative lifestyle, to ensure that our countries prosper while we are at the same time contributing to a global solution,” he added.

“So unless there are willing partners on the other side, we will expend political capital…” the president said.

“We don’t need to keep re-articulating and re-analysing the problem. We know that deforestation and forest degradation cause more emissions than the European Union. We know that deforestation is 17% of the climate change problem, we know that it happens because trees are currently worth more dead than alive, and we know that only action at national scale or large-scale sub-national scale will work in the long term. Above all, we know that unless we take major, impactful action urgently to reduce these emissions, we will frankly be unable to achieve climate stabilisation at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

“ And that is why moving away from a problem focus and towards defining and implementing a solution is urgent today and in the next two months before Copenhagen. Solving deforestation and forest degradation is hard, but it is no more difficult than finding solutions for other climate solutions. Just as with technology for carbon capture and storage, or sorting out the planning process for the large-scale expansion of wind farms in European or North American countries, REDD has many issues that need to be solved. But the key to solving them is positioning REDD within the right strategic framework. That is what has been missing to date, where the focus is too often on the minuitiae and not enough on the big prize that is there to be won. And that is why getting first-order political attention on the problem is so important.”

Following the previous day’s Summit on Climate Change, and in advance of the critical Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen taking place this December, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon convened leaders and dignitaries from developed and developing countries to dialogue and publicly support REDD.

President Jagdeo spoke at the meeting on behalf of Latin America and the Caribbean, with Head of State from the Republic of Congo speaking on behalf of the Presidents and Prime Ministers from Africa; (Papua New Guinea) on behalf of Asia and the Pacific; industrialised countries (Australia, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom) and World Bank President Zoellick took the stand to support progress and actions on REDD.

High ranking officials from Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Japan and China also underlined their commitment.

The event marked the largest gathering of countries to date on the issue of REDD, with the participation of over 80 countries and over 150 dignitaries and leaders from international and non-governmental organisations, academia, think-tanks and the private sector from around the world concerned with climate change and forests.

“This convergence of world leaders; highlights a positive, growing momentum in support of REDD and signals how this mechanism may be feasible from a technical, financial and collaboration perspective,” Secretary-General Ban said about the event.

“While drastic reductions in fossil fuel-related emissions are crucial in addressing climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from forests and land use is pivotal to the overall equation.”

According to President Jagdeo, participating developing countries expressed their willingness to undertake significant cuts in deforestation and forest degradation, provided that they receive sufficient financial support.

A report by the informal Working Group on Interim Finance for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (IWG-IFR) estimates a 25 % reduction in deforestation could be achieved with a financial commitment of 15-20 billion Euros (US$22-29B) by 2015.

Deforestation and the degradation of forests are responsible for just under one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s cars, trucks, ships and planes combined. In addition to storing over one trillion tonnes of the world’s carbon, forests provide for essential human needs, including adaptation.

Yet under the current Kyoto Protocol, developing countries cannot receive credit for the social and environmental benefits their forests provide. The absence of rewards for maintaining forests means they continue to be cut, burnt and degraded.

A REDD mechanism that will be discussed during the climate change negotiations this December in Copenhagen proposes to change the perverse incentives that make forests worth more dead than alive.

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