BOGOR, Indonesia (17 April 2012) _The international community needs to help developing countries increase their ability to measure and monitor the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that they save by safeguarding their forests if a UN-backed climate change mechanism known as REDD+ is to attain its objective of cutting emissions, according to a new study that reveals major capacity gaps in most tropical forest-rich nations.
REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) aims to reward developing nations for protecting, restoring and sustainably managing forests. With healthy forests absorbing up to a third of all greenhouse gasses, and deforestation causing about a fifth of all emissions, proponents see REDD+ as a way to slow the pace of climate change.
At the latest UN climate change talks in South Africa in December, negotiators agreed on the need for robust systems for the measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of greenhouse gas emissions for REDD+ to work. Responsibility for this task is expected to lie with the developing countries themselves – however, most do not have the capacity for this highly technical task, according to this new study.
Eighty-nine out of 99 tropical countries had “very large to medium” gaps between what is required for REDD+ monitoring under national circumstances and their current capacities, according to the paper entitled Assessing capacities of non-Annex I countries for national forest monitoring in the context of REDD+ published in Environmental Science and Policy.
“REDD+ is assumed to be a performance-based mechanism and its supporters need to be realistic about what developing countries can do in terms of MRV, at least at this point in time,” said Louis Verchot, a co-author of the study and the leading climate scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). “The international community needs to commit the human and financial resources to address the gaps in MRV capacity if they want REDD+ to work.”
The study is intended to help direct international efforts to increase MRV capacity in developing countries.
Very large capacity gaps were identified in 49 countries, mostly in Africa, because of limited engagement in the REDD+ process, underdeveloped monitoring capacity, and specific challenges related to REDD+ and remote sensing. Several countries, such as Argentina, Mexico, China and India, were found to have very good capacities for monitoring of forest area change and for performing regular forest inventories. In general, countries are better equipped to measure changes in forest area than to conduct forest inventory and carbon stock measurements.
Many countries with “small capacity gaps” account for large areas of forest loss. This suggests that investments in these countries can yield high returns. Likewise, countries with “very large capacity gaps” also account for very large areas of deforestation and building adequate capacity in these countries will require sustained efforts.
“What we need to remember is that the capacity building need is country specific since the types and sizes of the capacity gaps vary as do the REDD+ implementation priorities,” said Martin Herold, a co-author of the paper and professor at the Laboratory of Geo-Information Science and Remote Sensing of the Wageningen University, the Netherlands.
African countries face major challenges in terms of institutions, human resources and technical infrastructure, like poor internet connection and poor remote sensing coverage. International efforts could improve satellite data coverage through investing in better data acquisition facilities, in particular in Central Africa and Central America. Specific country circumstances, such as high occurrence of forest fires or high amounts of carbon in the vegetation or soil, like peatlands and mangroves (which is the case in many Southeast Asian countries), may cause large amounts of emissions and therefore need to be monitored closely.
Small countries may want to consider the option of working together to build the capacity to monitor forest-area change and assess carbon stock. Aside from capacity-building efforts from developed countries that support REDD+, such as Norway and Australia, countries with good capacities could have an important role in South-South capacity development, the report said.