By Nathan Russell, CIMMYT
Now that there is wide agreement on the potential of REDD+ as a low-cost and effective approach to climate change mitigation, a key remaining challenge is to establish how this novel mechanism can generate other benefits as well, such as poverty reduction.
“Without a clear development focus, REDD+ won’t achieve its environmental objectives; it just won’t work,” said Antonio La Viña of Manila University during a sub-plenary session at Forest Day 4, taking place alongside the United Nations Climate Change Conference under way at Cancún, Mexico.
Despite the current “paralysis in the negotiations,” said Elias Freig Delgado of Mexico’s Finance Ministry, many countries and institutions are moving ahead on their own to fulfill the goals of REDD+. He cited examples of successful reforestation and of social benefits from community forest management in several Mexican states.
Similarly, China is advancing a large and comprehensive program of forest action to combat climate change, registering important achievements in sustainable forest management, according to Dai Guangcui of the country’s State Forestry Administration.
While largely home grown, such efforts are also receiving significant outside support – in activities like stakeholder engagement – from the United Nations REDD Programme and others.
“So much action already happening on the ground is what will finally get REDD+ off the ground,” said La Viña.
But all of this “carbon emotion” – as one speaker termed it, in what must have been the most fortuitous Freudian slip of Forest Day 4 – is driven by finance, the “elephant in the room,” as another speaker called it. Much of the funding so far has come from governments, as is the case in China and Mexico, which have both massively increased their forestry budgets.
But there is still a sizable funding gap, which must be filled if REDD+ is to succeed in reducing deforestation meaningfully, explained Leslie Durschinger, Managing Director of Terra Global Capital. She indicated various conditions that must be fulfilled to “catalyze private investment,” emphasizing that environmental and social safeguards are not just the right thing to do but a necessary measure for reducing investors’ risks.