Getting REDDy for REDD?

April 8, 2010, by Tim Stumhofer

This Friday all eyes in the climate world will return to Bonn, Germany for the next rounds of the UNFCCC-convened Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-KP 11 and AWG-LCA 9). Or in less jargon-laden terms, the formal resumption of international climate negotiations under the United Nations.

The return to climate policy on the international stage provides an opportunity to discuss one of the clearest policy signals to emerge from 2009’s muddled and confused conclusion at COP15 in Copenhagen. I am, of course, referring to REDD, the topical acronym for Reduced Emissions through Deforestation and forest Degradation in developing countries. The term is ripe for puns (apologies for the title of this post) and has seen its stock rise since the 2007 COP13 in Bali, Indonesia.

The underpinning concept, reducing deforestation and in turn related GHG emissions in key regions by providing a financial incentive, has proven particularly attractive in international negotiations. Indeed the proposed mechanism’s approach has benefited from a broad acceptance of the need to stem deforestation as an essential component of global climate change mitigation. Moreover, REDD is further boosted by a range of popular ancillary benefits that extend beyond climate, from rainforest and biodiversity conservation to development assistance for rural land stewards.

Of course, turning this concept into a functioning carbon finance mechanism is a long road fraught with eye-watering complexity. Fortunately, as a REDD regime hurdles toward political reality, it continues to pull great minds and dedicated personalities under its tent.

Yet, for all the thought given to REDD’s high level architecture and on-the-ground project design, we here at the Institute can’t help but look forward and wonder more concretely about the implementation challenges of a REDD regime. Specifically, from a human resources perspective, how to scale the workforce necessary to measure, report, and verify (MRV) GHG fluctuations in REDD projects even with the assistance of satellite imagery and other remote sensing technologies. Though the REDD world has some time before it faces a chronic human resource shortage, it is certainly worth highlighting (cutesy as it may sound) that a bit of MRV REDDiness will go a long way.

For more on REDD, please see the UN’s excellent web resource, The UN-REDD Programme. Or for an in-person update from the perspective of the carbon finance community see Environmental Finance’s “Forestry, Biomass & Sustainability 2010” conference in London, 13-14 May of this year. The emergence of this conference, and what will surely be similar events in the future, is interesting in that it represents a clear acknowledgement by project developers and financiers of the significance of REDD.

Finally, to learn more about forest carbon accounting, the underpinning fundamental for REDD, please check out the Institute’s new course “GHG Accounting for Forest Inventories.”


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