REDDy, or not?

An emerging global agreement to combat climate change by preventing deforestation will fail unless it pays more attention the needs of local people, concludes a new report from a prominent body of forest experts. The emerging pact — known as “REDD,” for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation” – needs to give greater weight to local and national efforts to sustainably manage forests, says the report, released on the eve of a major United Nations meeting on forest management.

REDD, which got a major boost at global climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico in late 2010, seeks to create strong incentives to protect forests, which store vast amounts of carbon. Large emitters in the developed world, for instance, could offset their emissions by providing funds to preserve – or even plant – forests in poorer nations.

But “international approaches that aim to transform forests into storehouses for carbon, or for biodiversity or some other narrow purpose, are inevitably going to produce disappointing results,” warns Constance McDermott of Oxford University in the United Kingdom. She is one of about 60 experts who contributed to Embracing complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance, a report coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations. Efforts to “lock up” forests for carbon could backfire, for instance, if local communities feel left out of the process, or realize no economic benefit.

“We are not saying we need to abandon a global approach to forest governance, but we do need to establish the appropriate roles,” says Jeremy Rayner of the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, who led the expert panel. “The REDD process, for example, might provide a great way to raise money for sustainable forest management and other forest programs, but much of the details and operational aspects would be undertaken at the regional and national levels.”

The new assessment is being released as the United Nations prepares to launch the International Year of Forests at a “Forum on Forests” in New York City. David Malakoff | January 24, 2011

Source: Jeremy Rayner, Alexander Buck & Pia Katila (eds.). 2010. Embracing complexity: Meeting the challenges of international forest governance. A global assessment report. Prepared by the Global Forest Expert Panel on the International Forest Regime. IUFRO World Series Volume 28. Vienna. See:

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