Outcomes from the seminar: Tropical Forests and Climate Change; Are we on the right track ... beyond Copenhagen?

Outcomes from the seminar: Tropical Forests and Climate Change; Are we on the right track ... beyond Copenhagen?

the Netherlands - 10 July, 2009

Tropical forests will play an important role in the new climate treaty that is to be signed in December 2009 in Copenhagen. Unlike its predecessor - the Kyoto Protocol - this new agreement will likely include a financial mechanism to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD). The REDD mechanism has received substantial attention since it was introduced at the Bali conference in 2007. It is commonly viewed as a potential global incentive for the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests.

Although media attention and most discussions now predominantly focus on the role of avoiding deforestation, the Copenhagen agreement is also likely to include incentives to avoid forest degradation - the second D in REDD. In addition to improved forest management, plantations and agroforestry are expected to be tapped as contributors to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The seminar particularly focused on contributing to an agenda for further work after Copenhagen; this was guided by the following questions:

•How can (agro)forests and their sustainable management contribute effectively, equitably and credibly to climate change adaptation and mitigation?
•How can forest related climate finance strategies, mechanisms and instruments be effectively and credibly integrated in strategies for SFM and sustainable land management?


The aims of this seminar were to:

  1. Present and discuss recent scientific insights into the role of tropical forest in climate change mitigation and adaptation, with special attention to forest degradation, new natural forests, agroforests, and forest plantations.
  2. Present an integrated view on sustainable forest management, what is needed to make it happen, and how climate instruments can contribute.
  3. Discuss the policy and management implications emerging from our new insights on forests and climate, including priorities for further work.

Highlights of the presentations

Recent studies have shown that forest degradation account for 10 to 20% of green house emissions. Through prevention and restoration part of the emissions may be reduced, but also through reduced impact logging practices and best management practices, according to Dr. Pieter Zuidema.
"New natural forests" or secondary forests present also an opportunity for forest carbon sequestration among other benefits such as high valued forest products and services. Dr. Frans Bongers highlighted the necessity to include new natural forests in the REDD agreements and beyond.
Another type of system that could contribute to climate change mitigation according to Dr. Mulugeta Lemenih, are man-made forest or plantation forests. As deforestation is a cause for carbon-emission, reforestation/afforestation is a means for fixing and storing carbon, and providing timber.
Meine van Noordwijk first addressed the importance of definitions, an issue clearly illustrated by the role that agroforesty systems could fulfil within the context of avoided deforestation and forest degradation. The potential of agroforestry systems to be part of efforts to reduce C emissions are best served by mechanisms that provide incentives to reduce carbon emissions from landscapes encompassing a mix of different land uses, and not by separate rules for forests and agriculture.

Some issues of the plenary discussion:

REDD vs. earlier attention for forests

What is the difference between this debate with the debate on plantations for CDM credits in the 1990s?

Methodologies, standards and baselines

Referring to Bas Clabbers' statement that the focus beyond Copenhagen should be on the application of scientific knowledge, the discussion unfolded on what scientific insights could be applied and which methodological issues should be tackled to make REDD work.

Funding for REDD

It was pointed out that since REDD came into existence in 2007, there were enough funds available for mitigation and adaptation activities. Since then, funds declined by the effect of the economic crisis and the lowering of donor countries' GDP. This effect should not be underestimated.

Mitigation, adaptation or both?

It was stated that climate change as an irreversible process in which we are beyond the point of no return. Mitigation will not do the job anymore. It therefore makes more sense to invest in meeting carbon requirements but also in biodiversity and rural development; in other words, in adaptation.

REDD and social welfare (and biodiversity)

The discussion then turned to the effect of REDD on social welfare. Is the glass half full or half empty? Whereas some NGOs take a sceptical stance, other NGOs, e.g. from Cameroon, were positive as REDD would create opportunities.

Some conclusions for a post-Copenhagen agenda

  1. Good management of timber production forests, especially measures avoiding damage to the forest contributes substantially to the reduction of global carbon emissions.
  2. New natural forests, a.k.a. secondary forests, cover extensive areas and contain important stocks of carbon. Their management may contribute significantly to carbon sequestration and storage, improved livelihoods and biodiversity.
  3. If well-managed, man-made or plantation forests can play an important role in reaching climate and development goals.
  4. The delineation/definition of 'forests' and other land uses are a major challenge to the development and implementation of rules for REDD that would not apply across the whole landscape. Reducing Emissions from Any Land Use (REALU) therefore should be preferred over current separate proposals for forests, peatlands and agriculture.
  5. A too exclusive focus on carbon sequestration and storage may have negative effects on the role of forests for livelihoods and biodiversity. What is good for carbon may not necessarily be good for people and biodiversity.
  6. Developing a credible REDD scheme involves a trade-off between Efficiency and Fairness. Striking the right balance between them is an important goal for the current negotiations of a new climate treaty.

Further information

The seminar booklet and other information on the seminar (presentations, press release) can be found at the website of the Dutch Association of Tropical Forests (VTB): www.tropischebossen.nl