climate defenders camp

Discussions at these climate talks are often in a highly specialized language that some of us like to call “Alphabet Soup” – because it is conducted almost entirely in acronyms. One such cup o’ soup we’ve been hearing a lot about lately is REDD, which stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation.” So I thought I’d give you an as-brief-as-possible update on where the negotiations on REDD are at, and what we’re pushing for.

Stopping the deforestation and degradation of tropical forests is one of the quickest and most effective ways to reduce emissions quickly. And REDD can achieve a very substantial amount of emissions reductions.

As much sense as REDD makes, however, there are of course those countries who are undermining efforts aimed at writing a strong and effective REDD program into the climate deal being worked on here at the UN climate summit. And as is unfortunately true on far too many issues, the US is one of the major roadblocks. In fact, the US just won a “Fossil of the Day” award (which it shared with Colombia) for its obstructionist stance on the REDD issue (one of three Fossils it was awarded in the past two days, no less).

The US and Colombia received this “slightly sarcastic yet highly prestigious” honor for moving REDD discussions in the wrong direction and delaying a draft text delivery to ministers, who will hammer out the final text to be presented to heads of state when they arrive later in the week. Both the US and Colombia are also supporters of what’s known as the sub-national or project approach to REDD.

We’re pushing hard for a national approach to REDD. The problem with managing REDD on a project-by-project or sub-national basis is that if you stop forest destruction in one place, it could just move to another part of the country. A national overview of all REDD projects and the emissions reductions achieved through them could prevent that from happening. The US is pushing for the project-by-project approach because it would benefit US corporate polluters who expect to receive cheap offset credits for investing in forestry projects abroad so they can continue to pollute at home.

On Monday the Rainforest Coalition led by Papua New Guinea opposed this approach and joined with the EU and Brazil in their demand for a national approach. We’re still waiting to see how this plays out and of course throwing as much support behind the national approach as we can (and lest you doubt that support will make a difference, check out who’s number four on this list of the most influential players here at the UN climate summit – ahead of President Obama, even!).

Another issue reaching a critical juncture in the REDD negotiations is the global goal for deforestation. We’re calling for zero deforestation by 2020, but as you might imagine there are attempts to water this target down by countries looking to avoid taking real action. The EU supports a goal of halving deforestation in developing countries by 2020 and stopping all deforestation in developing countries by 2030. Yet even this inadequate goal was recently undermined by an announcement from the UK, who proposed financing to halt only 25% of emissions by 2015.

Financing of forest protection is yet another issue coming to a head here. To achieve the full emissions reductions that are possible through REDD, the rich countries that are most responsible for causing the climate crisis must set up a global fund of USD 42 billion (30 billion euros) annually and make it immediately available to all countries with tropical forests. They must also make sure that the forest protection plans are set up in ways that protect wildlife and the rights of indigenous and local people.

These are just some of the key issues being worked on here as negotiators attempt to hammer out a plan for using REDD to tackle climate change. There are several more, but these are some of the main issues and this post has already gone on long enough, so I’ll stop there.

Image: Over 50 Greenpeace activists from the Climate Defenders Camp on the Kampar Peninsula in Indonesia take action against deforestation — unfurling a 20 x 30 meter banner in a freshly destroyed area of rainforest that read ‘Obama you can stop this’, urging him to take strong leadership and work closely with other Heads of State to help avert a climate crisis by ending global deforestation, responsible for about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. © Greenpeace / John Novis