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Reducing Emissions from Deforestation

The Kyoto Protocol, adopted in 1997, allowed only afforestation (A) and reforestation (R) under its Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), one of the Protocol’s flexible mechanisms.  Four years later, when the rules and modalities of Afforestation & Reforestation CDM (AR CDM) were established under the Marrakech Accords, developing countries were allowed to sell their certified emission reduction (CER) to developed countries (referred to as Annex I countries)  up to a maximum of one percent  of their quota.  This means that globally AR CDM can be reduced only by as much as 30 million ton CO2 per year.  Moreover, out of more than 500 registered CDM projects only seven AR CDM projects were approved.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that 1700 million tons of CO2--60 times the size of the entire AR CDM market--is released to the atmosphere annually due to land use change - largely from tropical deforestation. It is.  This enormous source of emissions from deforestation is not included in the Kyoto Protocol.

In December 2005, the Eleventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP11) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decided to initiate a two-year process to address issues relating to reducing emissions from deforestation (RED) in developing countries.  The two-year process will bear fruit culminating when the recommendation on RED is made at the COP13 in Bali in December 2007.

It is interesting to note that it has taken the international community 10 years of implementing AR CDM to realize that reducing emission from deforestation or conserving the existing terrestrial carbon pools is more effective than sequestering carbon through planting trees.  It will probably take another five years to have the rules and modalities in place.  Some countries, however, are eager to have an early start before the first Kyoto commitment period ends in 2012.  Emissions from deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia alone are equivalent to the entire reduction commitments of the Annex 1 countries during the first commitment period.

Countries harboring massive tropical forests are now working hard to answer strategic questions, such as:

  • What would be the guiding principles to include RED in the future climate regimes?
  • What would be the effective policy approaches at both international and national levels?
  • What would be the options of financing mechanisms to support positive incentives in implementing projects or programs
  • How would the methodological issues be addressed without compromising their credibility and robustness