Seeing REDD

To try to fully understand the ‘United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation’ (UN REDD) is quite a task. In simple terms it is a method of ensuring the multiple benefits of forests for indigenous people are maintained, at the same time measuring and evaluating forests worldwide as a continuing carbon sink. It is a reward scheme for promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) for the world.

REDD is now REDD +. As the text ‘reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries and approaches to stimulate action’ was added to, to include ‘the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries

The issues involved are highly complex and the ambitions are great. With $139,600,000.00 in the kitty, $123,200,000.00 of which comes from Norway alone, (whose commitment in working to mitigate against climate change globally is sadly little acknowledged by us all).

Unfortunately such sums of money are not just tempting corruption but are capable of breeding it, thus it is no surprise that ‘monitoring’ of REDD has become a tier in itself in worldwide forestry.

REDD has become such a paper strewn labyrinth of political manoeuvring and PR, that what is actually left to those on the ground, the indigenous people and their localised forestry knowledge falls way short of the pledged sums. It is very difficult, nigh on impossible, to get a really true picture of what is actually happening, even multi national NGO’s are cited in criticism of individual REDD projects, not surprising given their role as brokers for REDD funds. And all the while the conferences of economists continue to meet and discuss the merits of REDD and the indigenous people it should serve, searching for sound bites to satisfy their egos but in reality doing little more than tracing circles in the sand.

There is a certain sense of inevitability now whenever there is money proposed for tree planting or forest protection that it will enter that habitual fog created by the political remoras now entrenched in international, national and even local governmental processes, losing its value to an extraordinary extent, indeed sometimes never being seen again.

The increasingly ‘missionary like’ believe that those on the ground require ‘educating’ is wrong. The skills and knowledge of forest peoples around the world are exceptional and based on their inherited connection with their own landscapes; they require no further explanation or education from us – but they will allows, as we do, follow the money. Direct payments as REDD and other initiatives attempt may result in a slow rise in the price of timber flooding into the UK and elsewhere and eventually may persuade the purchase of truly sustainable timber to be more desirable to the public on a cost for cost basis.

Simplistic I know; but surely until we pass laws that see the prosecuting of the importers, wholesalers and retailers of rainforest timber rather than continuing what is clearly a fruitless educating system at home in the developed world, where if we are lucky a daughter may convince her father to buy the sustainable product instead, then we will not see any progress. Just as we won’t as the FAO continue to integrate plantation palm oil and other replacement plantations to previously primeval rainforest into global forest statistics. Furthermore forest certification needs to get tough, very tough indeed with heavyweight legislative powers behind it.

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