I wasn't able to write anything this week, so instead I'm posting the intro to the paper I'm writing. Lame, I know. Everything great here; I did a nice hike up a volcano this weekend. Hopefully going to Lake Nakuru on Saturday.
The recognition of forests’ importance to global health, biodiversity, climate, and economic productivity has made protecting them a priority. Deforestation and forest degradation account for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the global transport sector. Conserving forests is a necessary and cost-effective way of mitigating climate change. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) attempts to create a market price for forest carbon, creating incentives for countries to reduce deforestation rates. REDD+ includes conservation and enhancement of forest carbon stocks through reforestation and afforestation. Sequestering carbon in forests is a service that forest countries provide to the global community; REDD+ is the mechanism to reward the provision of this service. REDD+ is designed as a performance-based payment; although REDD+ funds are currently being used to build capacity and support REDD+ readiness, the bulk of the payments will be transferred upon provision of forest conservation and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
UNEP recognizes the important role that forests play in livelihood creation in many developing countries. Asking forest-dependent people to reduce deforestation rates for the sake of the global community would be unfair. Furthermore, UNEP believes that without addressing the root causes of deforestation, efforts to conserve forests would be ultimately unsuccessful. If REDD+ funds are not used wisely, unsustainable pressure on forests will remain. Therefore, REDD+ is meant to be the catalyst to spur the average annual investment of the $40 billion required to halve deforestation by 2030 and the transformation to a green economy that is less dependent on forests. The recognition that forest degradation is rooted in political economic factors means that REDD+ efforts will not succeed if only Ministers of Environment are involved as economic transformation demands the active participation of several branches of government.
Smart development and forest conservation go hand in hand; the Green Economy report predicts that protection of forests will increase carbon storage by 28% and increase formal employment from forests to 30 million, versus 25 million under a business as usual scenario. Environmental concerns and forest conservation of forests are normally seen as a hindrance to economic growth, but the growing appreciation for the services that natural capital provide has shown that conservation and sustainable growth are not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, it is important to note that carbon-neutral management of forests does not preclude forest-dependent people from maintaining their traditional lifestyles. Instead, REDD+ endeavors to improve capacity so that forests are managed sustainably and to ensure that a greater proportion of forest profits are captured by forest-dependent people so that natural capital stock can be maintained.
In the first section, this paper will discuss the importance of providing policy makers with metrics that allow them to appropriately value forests. In addition to carbon sequestration, forests provide a number of ecosystem services - multiple benefits - that contribute to economic growth, public health, and other important outputs. The lack of appropriate valuation of ecosystem services is a major contributor to the overexploitation of natural capital. Second, the paper will consider the relationship between development and forest conservation, using the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) as a framework for discussion. The paper will build upon the EKC to develop a theoretical model of forest economies to analyze the drivers of deforestation and policies to conserve natural capital. Third, the case study of Indonesia will be used to discuss the political economy of forests. Wealth distribution, poverty, power structures, governance, and institutions all play an important role in driving deforestation. Finally, transformative economic change can only take place through the innovation of new systems. Economic transformation will require substantial investments and policy changes, which REDD+ is meant to catalyze. The forest economy model will be used to predict potential scenarios and allow policy makers to decide which actions are most appropriate for their local conditions. Although there are no cookie cutter solutions that the paper suggests for global implementation, transformation to a green economy may include: investment in innovation (education, intellectual property rights and interactive learning systems), decentralizing regulation of forests through community managed forests, and cautious investment in agricultural intensification.