More than 100 people packed into the U.S. Center at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw this week to hear experts from four continents describe their successes and challenges in advancing forest conservation under emerging global policy rules to curb climate change.
Forestry and development experts from the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia and Germany talked about their progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), in their own countries and in other forest nations, such as Brazil. USAID Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Education and Environment Eric Postel led the panel, and Trigg Talley, the Department of State’s lead U.S. negotiator at U.N. climate talks, kicked things off with some words about REDD+’s role in climate negotiations.
REDD+ is a policy approach that emerged from U.N. climate talks. It would provide incentives for countries and communities who reduce deforestation and related carbon emissions.
Forests are natural storehouses for carbon, and their destruction contributes as much as a sixth of the emissions causing climate change. This means forest conservation protects the global climate – in addition to watersheds, biodiversity, and livelihoods for the more than 1 billion people who depend on forests.
In Warsaw, REDD+ experts described the successes and challenges they have faced protecting forests. Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC, talked about deforestation pressures that cross national borders. Ivan Dario Valencia Rodriguez, from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, talked about protecting remote areas sparsely populated by indigenous peoples.
Alejandrino Sibucao, from Philippines’ Department of Environment, discussed advances in mapping national forests and deforestation rates. And Christiane Ehringhaus, from Germany’s KfW Development Bank, described her work with state-level efforts to curb deforestation in Brazil.
The United States has participated in climate talks since the early 1990s. Today, 195 nations participate, and – not surprisingly – sometimes progress toward a global treaty seems slow. But success stories coming from REDD+ can demonstrate just how much progress is happening on the ground.
Forest protection provides many benefits in addition to protecting the earth’s climate. Gathering evidence of successful approaches for mitigating climate change has increased interest in natural carbon storehouses like forests – and in the idea of providing incentives so that people will safeguard them. This has opened up new avenues of exploration and action for forest protection – and for sharing the benefits with communities who protect them.