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201105Jun19:42

The true cost of sav­ing rain­for­est and improv­ing food security

Infor­ma­tion
pub­lished 05 June 2011 | mod­i­fied 23 Decem­ber 2011
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New research shows that the so-​called REDD+ scheme may increase rural poverty because crit­i­cal income streams to rural peo­ple have been ignored. The REDD+ (Reduc­ing Emis­sions from Defor­esta­tion and For­est Degra­da­tion) scheme, which con­sists of inter­na­tional plans to pay devel­op­ing coun­tries to reduce trop­i­cal for­est destruc­tion, has been pro­vided strong sup­port by the Can­cún Agree­ments of the United Nations Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change on Decem­ber 2010. How­ever coarse-​scale data were used when the scheme was developed.

A team of African, US and UK sci­en­tists explain in their pub­li­ca­tion in Nature cli­mate change why and how they think adjust­ments should be made in the pay­ment sys­tem to com­pen­sate for not destruc­t­ing trop­i­cal for­est. Espe­cially the ben­e­fits of char­coal pro­duc­tion from defor­esta­tion has not been included in for­mer cal­cu­la­tions to back the system.

The research sug­gests that slow­ing defor­esta­tion will be con­sid­er­ably more costly than reported in the Stern Review, an influ­en­tial doc­u­ment which dis­cusses the threat of cli­mate change to the world econ­omy. The researchers agreed that an inter­na­tional pay­ment sys­tem like the REDD+ scheme must cover the costs of for­est con­ser­va­tion to those that rely on trop­i­cal forests for their liveli­hoods. But with an ever increas­ing pop­u­la­tion size there will be an increas­ing demand for food and for fuel to cook this food. If the pay­ments do not cover this demand the defor­esta­tion could move to areas out­side of the REDD+ pro­gramme, which merely means that the REDD+ scheme will not deliver.

To over­come this prob­lem with REDD+ the researchers devel­oped a new approach, called Smart-​REDD, by first cal­cu­lat­ing the increase in crop yields on exist­ing land and the increase in fuel-​efficiency of char­coal cook-​stoves that are needed to meet the demand cur­rently met by for­est destruc­tion. Then the team cal­cu­lated the cost of imple­ment­ing a scheme to boost crop yields, dis­trib­ute high effi­ciency cook-​stoves and mon­i­tor and pro­tect the forests.

They did all of this in an area of Tan­za­nia, where rapid for­est con­ver­sion is cou­pled with intense poverty and food inse­cu­rity. They dis­cov­ered that char­coal pro­duc­tion makes up one-​third of the profit of con­vert­ing Tan­zan­ian forests and wood­lands to agriculture.

The cost of imple­men­ta­tion the new scheme, at US$6.50 per tonne of car­bon diox­ide saved, is larger than the cost to merely com­pen­sate for­est users, which is US$3.90. But the sums are still con­sid­er­ably less than the cur­rent mar­ket price of car­bon (cur­rently around US$24 per tonne car­bon diox­ide in the Euro­pean Trad­ing Scheme). The team’s research sug­gests that even a dou­bling of agri­cul­tural yields is pos­si­ble at US$12 per tonne of car­bon dioxide.

So, even using the true costs of prac­ti­cal inter­ven­tions (the Smart-​REDD scheme) to con­serve forests must be fea­si­ble and deliver what the orig­i­nal REDD+ scheme was intended for: to reduce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions, to tackle cli­mate change, reduce bio­di­ver­sity loss and sup­port human development.

(Sources: web­site Uni­ver­sity of Leeds, 30.05.2011; Nature, pub­lished online 29.05.2011; Wikipedia)

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