TO INDUSTRIAL NATIONS scrabbling desperately for ways to reduce their carbon debt, the idea was instantly appealing: invest in developing-world projects that either prevent a forest from being cleared, or replant an area that has been cleared, thus reducing global carbon emissions, and earn carbon credits in the process.
With deforestation responsible for around 18 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it seemed, on the surface, to be an easy, cheap way to get some quick wins on the climate change board.
REDD+ — Reduction in Emissions from Deforestation or forest Degradation (the ‘+’ representing additional activities such as reforestation and sustainable management of forests) — was conceived amid great enthusiasm at the 2007 Bali climate change conference.
But things are rarely easy or cheap when it comes to mitigating climate change, as a new report from the Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR) shows.
A summary of the REDD+ experience so far was released yesterday at the Rio+20 United Nations Summit on Sustainable Development. It suggests that while it has significant potential, REDD+ faces huge challenges that are not easily overcome.
There are now over 200 REDD+ projects running in around 50 countries. They include an Australian-government-backed project to reflood and replant devastated peatlands in Indonesia; a privately-funded effort to reforest and conserve areas of Amazon rainforest previously owned by timber companies; and the conversion of degraded grasslands in the Democratic Republic of Congo into sustainably managed forests for carbon sequestration and fuel.
However after such promising beginnings, many REDD+ projects around the world are floundering.