I spend most of my time at work and I’m pretty interested by what I’m doing, so hopefully it will make a decent post.
I’m working for UNEP-REDD+. REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. The “+” is meant to signify afforestation activities. About 20% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Almost all of the forest loss is in developing world countries: Indonesia and SE Asia, the Congo Basin and the Amazon Basin. It’s not realistic to ask these countries to give up a major source of income without compensation, so REDD+ is a project to pay countries if they reduce their deforestation rates. There is an initial small investment by the UN and the World Bank, but almost all the money comes after the countries have proven they have protected their forests. It’s called payment for environmental services: these nations are providing a service (carbon sequestration) and the developed world is paying them for it.
There’s lots of difficulties with this idea, however. Timber and agriculture (a major cause of deforestation) are two large sources of revenues for these poor countries. They have to be adequately compensated for this sacrifice. Another problem is control over the forested lands. If the government of Guyana declares that an area is off limits for forestry activities, what happens to the people who have lived in the forests for millennia and depend on it for their livelihood? Will they receive REDD+ funds? Or will those funds stay at the top of the government? REDD+ is also assuming that the government has control over their lands…illegal logging is rampant in many of these countries. Another problem is the governance in some of these forest countries. Democratic Republic of the Congo has the 3rd biggest forest in the world…it’s also one of the most corrupt governments in the world. And the site of terrible war and conflict. What will the effects of giving their government millions and millions of dollars be?
UNEP is interested in investing in a “green economy.” The idea is that Indonesia, Brazil and these other countries can develop without depleting their natural capital (forests). There is to be a transformation of their economies to knowledge and service-based activities. It’s basically the main selling point of REDD+: that REDD+ funds can help them develop in exchange for forest protection.
My report is about how this transformation can happen. I’ve been reading a lot about the underlying causes of deforestation and how they could be addressed. Another big idea is “innovation systems.” What are the norms and institutions that encourage innovation and would allow forest countries to transform their economies?
This transformation is partially based on forest transition theory. The theory goes that, as countries develop, they cut down their forests. However, once they reach a certain per capita income, forest activities are no longer as economically attractive as service and other activities, so deforestation stops and forests regenerate. The REDD+ idea is to allow these developing forest nations to skip this degrading period and go right to high development and low levels of deforestation.
That’s what I’m writing about. It’s interesting and I’m learning a lot.
This weekend I went to Mombasa, which is on the coast. We stayed in a small town south of Mombasa. It was sooo nice down there. The Indian Ocean is much warmer than any other ocean I’ve swam in. The beach was beautiful. Loved it.