Understanding What REDD Means to Sustainable Development

newguineaLaunched in September 2008, the United Nations Collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation, known better simply as UN-REDD was created with the goal of helping countries implement REDD+ strategies.

What are REDD+ strategies?

To quote the UN:

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) - is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

In short, the goal of REDD projects isn't just to reduce rates of deforestation, but rather, to reduce deforestation by creating an immediate financial incentive for the local people derived from keeping the forests intact, which should have the byproduct of reducing carbon emissions.

REDD+ projects, don't just stop deforestation, however, but rather are designed "to support the voluntary efforts of developing country Parties to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, promoting conservation and the sustainable management of forests, and enhancing forest carbon stocks

The project in Indonesia to Use degraded land rather than forested or peat land for oil palm plantation expansion, is a UN-REDD project. Similarly the Kasigau Corridor REDD Project, a conservation based development project designed to give the local Kenyan communities economic alternatives to poaching and charcoal production, is also a REDD project. The latter did so by creating an Eco-factory which produces organic cotton tees and other clothing items for sale.

As with most sustainable development plans, REDD is not without its detractors. In addition to worries over corruption which could undermine the process, and the questions of the long-term viability of some of the projects there is also a question of the rights of many of the Indigenous peoples who inhabit REDD lands. In December 2008, while the REDD framework was still being established, the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change (IIPFCC) issued a press release stating that REDD remains problematic for indigenous people. To quote:

While some governments have expressed support to the idea of recognizing indigenous rights as part of the preconditions prior to the implementation of REDD, many of the Indigenous Peoples’ delegates remain adamant in saying that “life is not for sale” and reject outright market-based mechanisms as ways to resolve the climate change problem.

More specifically, Indigenous Peoples see the current lack of a formal consultative process for Indigenous Peoples within the climate change negotiations as evidence that REDD will be contrary to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN-DRIP), which was adopted by the UN General Assembly (GA) in 2007.

Similarly, in January of this year Abilie Wape, a leader of the Kamula Doso Peoples of Papua New Guinea claims he was forced at gun point to surrender the carbon rights of his tribe’s forest. Some argue that while REDD may not insure indigenous rights refusing REDD will also provide no such insurance. The question arises, however, does REDD accidentally incentivize the usurping of indigenous rights even while it claims to protect the environment and help these same people?